By Lt. Kevin Chambers, Destroyer Squadron 7 Public Affairs
SANDAKAN, Malaysia (NNS) -- The 21st annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and Malaysian armed forces drew to a close during a ceremony held in Sandakan, Aug 21.
During CARAT Malaysia 2015, U.S and Malaysian forces conducted a series of shore-based and at sea training events designed to address shared maritime security concerns, develop relationships and enhance interoperability.
Some of those shore-based events included marksmanship and jungle training between U.S. Marines and soldiers from the Malaysian army, small boat riverine operations, and building a gazebo at a local school thanks to the joint efforts of Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 and the Malaysia Royal Engineer Regiment.
At sea, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) and the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) spent three days conducting combined maneuvers, live gun shoots, visit, board, search and seizure evolutions, small craft attack drills and other events with the Royal Malaysian Navy vessels KD Jebat and KD Kedah.
While USS Freedom (LCS 1) participated in CARAT Malaysia 2013, this year was the first opportunity for Fort Worth to participate. Fort Worth's presence added to the complexity of CARAT 2015 and afforded the opportunity for the Royal Malaysian Navy's Super Lynx helicopter to complete four deck landings, marking the first time a Malaysian helicopter has landed on Fort Worth.
"The complex and realistic training events conducted during CARAT 2015 will go a long way toward further increasing interoperability," said Capt. H.B. Le, commodore Destroyer Squadron 7. "That continued development is critical and will prove to be very beneficial when working together during any future regional contingencies."
After more than two decades of annual CARAT training engagements between the U.S. and Malaysian Armed Forces, the exercise remains a model for cooperation that has evolved in complexity and enables both nations to refine maritime operations and tactics.
The capstone exercise of CARAT Malaysia combined sea and shore-based forces in a pair of simulated amphibious landings on Tanduo Beach over a two-day period. U.S. units involved more than 300 Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (III MEB), nine amphibious assault vehicles and three aircraft, the Germantown and Fort Worth.
During his closing remarks, Capt. Le noted how the strong bond between U.S. and Malaysian forces extends beyond CARAT exercises.
"CARAT 2015 was a great stepping stone in our relationship with the Malaysian Armed Forces," he said. "We look forward to participating with their armed forces again during the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise, the premier multilateral exercise in Southeast Asia focusing on regional cooperation to address shared maritime security challenges."
Commander, Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 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 multilateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.