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Malaysia Phase of CARAT Closes With At-sea Ceremony

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040726-05
Release Date: 7/26/2004 12:15:00 PM

By Chief Journalist Melinda Larson, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Task Group Public Affairs

ABOARD USS FORT MCHENRY, South China Sea (NNS) -- The Malaysia phase of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) ended July 22 aboard the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) support ship KD Mahawangsa (AOR 1504), anchored off the tiny island of Tioman in the South China Sea.

"For the last 10 days or so, our armed forces have worked together in the conduct of combined exercises in our effort to further improve combined capabilities and interoperability," said Gen. Muhamad Effendi Bin Mustaffa, commander of the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces 10th Paratrooper Brigade, who delivered the closing ceremony address.

During CARAT Malaysia, more than 1,500 personnel from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Malaysia Armed Forces, along with 10 ships and a variety of aircraft, conducted at-sea exercises, air-to-air combat training and amphibious assaults.

One-hundred and fifty members of the Royal Malay Regiment (RMR) were transported by U.S. Navy landing craft, air-cushioned (LCAC) to the beach at Mersing for a mock amphibious assault. Prior to the assault, the RMR troops spent three days aboard USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) in preparation for the exercise. Two LCACs from Assault Craft Unit 5, Det. Western Pacific and a Beachmaster Unit 1, Det. Western Pacific craft control team are assigned to the ship. The personal and professional interaction helped both forces learn how the other operates.

"I strongly believe that we have a better understanding and improved our capability in combined and joint operations through various activities," Mustaffa said.

In the air, U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18F Super Hornet pilots went up against their Royal Malaysian Air Forces counterparts flying MiG-29s and Hawks. The pilots received briefs on the performance and capabilities of each other's aircraft. While airborne, the pilots were able to see for themselves what to expect from dissimilar aircraft.

At sea, tactical freeplays, a highline transfer, and cross-decking personnel helped the two forces develop joint cohesiveness. Crew members from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) shared their maritime law enforcement expertise.

"Training that demonstrates our navies' commitment to not only sharing information and situational awareness, but also the common goal of securing international seas and channels of commerce," said Capt. Buzz Little, commander of Destroyer Squadron 1 and the CARAT Task Group, of the events.

A seven-day salvage diving operation with USS Salvor (ARS 52) introduced RMN dive forces to U.S. underwater cutting and welding operations, recompression chamber procedures and MK 21 diving equipment.

Lectures, symposiums and command post exercises were also part of the 10-day exercise.

A hallmark of CARAT Malaysia has also been what crews from U.S. and Malaysian armed forces do together on behalf of local communities. U.S. Navy medical personnel traveled to the remote village of Sungai Mas to provide medical and dental care to local residents. U.S. Army veterinarians provided care to livestock at Kg Awah, Maran, RISDA and Maran Community farms. Repairs were made at the Jalan Tengku Handicapped Children's Center; Project Handclasp goods were delivered to Orang Asli Sungai Jin Aboriginal Village; and gardening helped brighten the landscape at Rumah Kanak-Kanak Tengku Ampuan Fatimah Orphanage.

The outlook for future CARAT exercises with Malaysia looks bright, Little added.

"The friendships made today have laid the groundwork for, and will certainly benefit, future generations of Sailors, officers and leaders," Little said.

Following the closing ceremony, the ship's officers and crew hosted 100 of their U.S. Navy CARAT counterparts to a typical Malaysian meal consisting of curry dishes, squid and lamb.

The U.S. CARAT Task Group is under the leadership of Little. His embarked staff is based aboard Fort McHenry with additional members aboard USS McCampbell (DDG 85). Little and his staff are based in San Diego, as is McCampbell. Mellon is homeported in Seattle. USS Russell (DDG 59) and Salvor are homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Fort McHenry is part of the U.S. 7th Fleet's forward deployed naval force operating from Sasebo, Japan.

CARAT Malaysia is the fourth of the five-phase annual exercise. CARAT Singapore was conducted May 31-June 11 while CARAT Brunei took place June 21-26. CARAT Thailand ended July 9. The CARAT Task Group will conclude the series in the Philippines.

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