KUANTAN, Malaysia -- The 19th 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 on Kuantan Naval Base June 23.
During CARAT Malaysia 2013, 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, combat casualty care training, and building a community center for local fishermen thanks to the joint efforts of Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 and the Malaysia Royal Engineer Regiment.
At sea, the guided-missile Destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) and the first-of-class littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) spent three days conducting combined maneuvers, submarine familiarization events, visit, board, search and seizure evolutions, small craft attack drills and other events with the Royal Malaysian Navy vessels KD Jebat and KD Kelantan.
As Freedom is on its first overseas deployment to Southeast Asia, the Malaysian leg of CARAT marked the ship's first time participating in this series of bilateral naval exercises, and the vessel's performance at sea drew praise from both participating navies.
"The multiple capabilities of (Freedom) are just starting to scratch the surface," said Capt. Paul Schlise, commanding officer of Task Group 73.1, which Freedom currently falls under. "We could get a lot of work done with more of these ships, and as this is just the first of many rotational deployments, we're pretty excited about having more of them."
"The ship itself is fantastic," Capt. Abdul Halim Bin Hj Shaari, KD Jebat's commanding officer, said of Freedom. "My boarding team went aboard and they learned a lot. The opportunity to command that type of ship would be great."
The capstone exercise of CARAT Malaysia combined sea and shore-based forces in a pair of simulated amphibious landings on Batu Beach over a two-day period. It involved 300 Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Unit and Malaysian Army paratroopers, nine amphibious assault vehicles and five aircraft, the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and the USS Freedom (LCS 1).
During his closing remarks, Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet Rear Adm. Jeff Harley noted how the strong bond between U.S. and Malaysian forces contributed to making CARAT Malaysia 2013 a success.
"Once again, our Sailors and Marines made this year successful by leveraging existing relationships and by building new ones," Harley said. "Sustaining these relationships is crucial to our future success in CARAT, and during events that might call upon our forces to act together."
Harley's counterpart, Maj. Gen. Dato' Abu Bakar Bin Abu Said Tudm, acting Joint Forces commander for the Malaysian armed forces, offered similar remarks.
"Over the years, CARAT has always been the highlight of our bilateral activity with the United States forces, and it marks an important event in our yearly calendar. Needless to say, the Malaysian armed forces have benefited tremendously from this endeavor," the general said. "I am looking forward to having another opportunity to meet each other again in CARAT 2014. I wish you all the best and have a safe journey home."