By Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific
The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard and Royal Thai Navy and Marine Corps kicked off the 25th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) during an opening ceremony at Sattahip Naval Base, May 29.
CARAT, the U.S. Navy's oldest and longest continually-running regional exercise in South and Southeast Asia, strengthens partnerships between regional navies and enhances maritime security cooperation throughout the Indo-Pacific. The Royal Thai Navy has been a part of the annual CARAT series since the exercise began in 1995.
"Thailand is a key partner and an enduring ally," said Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander, Task Force 73. "Every opportunity we have to train with our Thai partners is an investment in our relationship, as well as our capabilities. Over 25 years, CARAT continues to evolve and remains the premier venue for the U.S. and partner navies to work together and address shared maritime security concerns."
“CARAT represents the good relationship between the Royal Thai Navy and U.S. Navy,” said Rear Adm. Paisarn Meesri, commander of Frigate Squadron 2.
Hundreds of Sailors and Marines from both nations will come together this year to participate in the exercise’s 11 days of onshore and at-sea training.
The exercise features a robust sea phase with surface warfare maneuvering tactics, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drills, mobile dive and salvage training, gunnery exercises, submarine tactics, explosive ordinance disposal (EOD), and minesweeping and maritime patrol operations.
The shore phase will involve hands-on training in VBSS led by the U.S. Coast Guard, combat marksmanship, riverine tactics, medical training, jungle warfare and subject matter expert exchanges in medicine, aviation, law, EOD and maritime domain awareness (MDA).
“The Royal Thai Navy recognizes the importance of MDA,” said Capt. Yuthanavi Mungthanya, Royal Thai Navy MDA lead. “This topic will be very worthwhile for both navies. We will be able to discuss and share about MDA in an open environment.”
Additionally, community outreach events are held throughout the duration of the exercise in local schools and community centers, along with joint band performances at multiple venues by the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet Band and the Royal Thai Navy Band.
"With the inaugural CARAT Thailand exercise having occurred in 1995, this year marks a remarkable quarter-century of mutual commitment in ensuring maritime security and stability. We understand how important it is to work together and learn from each other, which allows us to function as a unified and effective maritime force," said Capt. Matt Jerbi, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7. "We are proud to once again train with our friends from the Royal Thai Armed Forces as we operate side-by-side in sophisticated and challenging evolutions."
U.S. assets participating in CARAT Thailand 2019 include staff from Commander, Task Force 73 and Commander, Destroyer Squadron 7, USS Patriot (MCM 7), USS Pioneer (MCM 9), USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52), USS Antietam (CG 54), USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3), Marine Rotational Force-Darwin Task Force, U.S. Navy 7th Fleet Band, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 and Naval Environmental Preventive Medicine Unit 6.
"The crew of Pioneer is excited to participate in CARAT 2019 - we've been training as a team to succeed in mine warfare, and CARAT is an excellent opportunity to challenge ourselves,” said Lt. Cmdr. Bobby Wayland, commanding officer of Pioneer. “Many of my Sailors have not worked with the Royal Thai Navy before and are looking forward to sharing ideas during the exercise.”
The CARAT exercise series remains a model of cooperation that has evolved in complexity and enables partner navies to refine operations and tactics in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges. Its continuing relevance for a quarter of a century speaks to the high quality of exercise events and the enduring value of maritime cooperation among allies and partners in South and Southeast Asia.
CARAT builds upon other engagements in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands including Pacific Partnership, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission, Maritime Training Activity Malaysia, Maritime Training Activity Philippines, Pacific Griffin with Singapore and Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), which involves nearly a dozen partner nations. These engagements bring like-minded naval forces together routinely based on shared values and maritime security interests.
As U.S. 7th Fleet's executive agent for theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Commander, Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 conduct advanced planning, organize resources, and directly support the execution of CARAT and other engagements in the region