MAURA, Brunei (NNS) -- A closing ceremony for the 21st annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei exercise was held at Maura Naval Base, Nov. 6.
CARAT is a bilateral exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations in South and Southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
As one of the original CARAT partners, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) have been part of CARAT since the exercise series began in 1995, and the United States and Brunei have enjoyed diplomatic relations since 1845, when the USS Constitution dropped anchor in the Brunei Bay.
"For 21 years we have worked together with our partners from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, and each year we add more complexity into the exercise," said Capt. H. B. Le, commodore, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7. "This speaks to the importance that both our armed forces place on the exercise, and this is a trend that will continue when we return next year for CARAT 2016."
CARAT is an adaptable, flexible exercise. Its scenarios are tailored with inputs from the United States and partner nations to meet shared maritime security priorities, such as counter-piracy, counter-smuggling, maritime interception operations, and port security. The exercise series is also a venue to share the latest best practices in search and rescue, military law and medicine and humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR).
During the sea-phase portion of the exercise, U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Mr. Craig Allen participated in a wreath laying ceremony aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82). The ceremony was held at the wreckage site of USS Salute (AM 294), a minesweeper that sank in Brunei Bay after being struck by a mine in June 1945.
During the ceremony on Lassen, Allen honored the bravery and service of the fallen Sailors of Salute and expressed his deep appreciation to all U.S. and RBAF personnel involved for their efforts in making this year's CARAT exercise a success.
"For the last 21 years, CARAT has been our largest bilateral military event with Brunei, and we recognize this sort of exercise cannot take place without detailed planning, coordination and strong cooperation," the ambassador said.
Highlighting this year's sea phase, the Royal Brunei Air Force's Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopter made deck landings on board Lassen, and a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft conducted maritime domain awareness missions and participated in search and rescue (SAR) and over-the-horizon targeting exercises. Additionally, the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) participated in CARAT for the first time during the sea phase, which included a replenishment-at-sea (RAS) approach exercise and tactical maneuvers with vessels from the Royal Brunei Navy (RBN).
"Executing a sophisticated exercise such as CARAT Brunei takes detailed planning and coordination by both sides," said Le. "The success of this year's exercise is a credit to the hard work put in by members of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and the U.S. Navy team."
During the shore phase, Sailors from Commander, Task Force (CTF) 73, DESRON-7, Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 detachment Guam, Patrol Squadron (VP) 16, Lassen, and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 51 participated in professional symposia to share best practices in military operations and law, military medicine, public affairs, aviation maintenance and operations, port security and rescue swimming.
The U.S. 7th Fleet rock band "Orient Express", together with the RBN band, played a series of public concerts throughout Brunei in front of more than 10,000 people. In addition to the public concerts, the band played two community service concerts at the International School of Brunei and the Society for the Management of Autism Related issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER).
While closing ceremonies have been held, CARAT continues ashore with a four-day jungle operations exercise, which began Nov. 6, where Marines from the 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion (3rd LEB) will train alongside soldiers from the Royal Brunei Landing Force (RBLF). Additionally, Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), embarked on the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), will work with the RBLF during a military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) training exercise, Nov. 10-11.
All together, more than 500 U.S. Sailors and Marines will have participated in CARAT Brunei. CARAT is the premier naval engagement with the RBAF and remains a credible venue to address shared maritime security challenges, strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance interoperability.
CTF-73 and DESRON-7 staff conduct advanced planning, organize resources and directly support the execution of maritime exercises such as the bilateral CARAT series, the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam, and the multi-lateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
For more news from Commander, Task Force 73, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/ctf73/.