KUANTAN, Malaysia -- The 19th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the Malaysian Armed Forces commenced with the arrival of a U.S. Navy task group to Kuantan Naval Base, June 15. The task group includes the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) with embarked Destroyer Squadron 7 staff, the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) with embarked USMC Landing Force, the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), and, making her debut as a CARAT particiapnt, the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1). Continuing through June 23, CARAT Malaysia 2013 consists of ten days of shore-based and at-sea training events designed to address shared maritime security concerns, develop relationships, and enhance interoperability among participating forces.
"2013 marks the 19th year the United States and Malaysia have conducted CARAT," said Rear Adm. Jeffery Harley, commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet and executive agent for CARAT Malaysia. "As one of the original partners, the Malaysian Armed Forces have been part of CARAT since the beginning. This long-standing collaboration through CARAT is a model for how our naval forces can continue to work together." CARAT is a series of bilateral naval exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste. CARAT Malaysia is also one of the key exercises that Freedom will participate in with regional navies and other U.S. Navy units during her maiden deployment to Southeast Asia. As a littoral combat ship, Freedom's size and capabilities are comparable with ships operated by many regional navies. Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are designed to operate in near-shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, mine countermeasures, or anti-submarine warfare. Training events in each CARAT phase are tailored based on available assets and mutual training goals that span across a broad range of naval capabilities. CARAT Malaysia 2013 will focus on combined operations at sea, amphibious landing events, diving and salvage training, and maritime security scenarios. The exercise will also feature military operations symposia, jungle survival training, tactical combat casualty care, sporting events, community service projects and public band concerts. More than 1,200 U.S. Sailors and Marines are participating in CARAT Malaysia 2013. The USMC Landing Force Company is comprised of Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment with an attachment from 2nd Amphibian Assault Battalion, 2nd Marine Division from Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. Also participating in CARAT Malaysia are medical professionals and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) evaluators from Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command (MCAST), Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 (NMCB), divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 (MUDSU), P-3C Orion and MH-60 aircraft, and the U.S. Seventh Fleet Band, Orient Express.