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End of Successful Philippines Phase Brings CARAT Series to Close

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050823-05
Release Date: 8/23/2005 11:50:00 AM

By Chief Journalist Melinda Larson, Commander, Destroyer Squadron 1 Public Affairs

PUERTA PRINCESA CITY, Philippines (NNS) -- The annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series ended Aug. 23 with the closing of the Philippines phase.

Capt. Buzz Little, commander of Destroyer Squadron 1 and the CARAT task group, members of his staff, and officers from three CARAT task group ships went ashore here today to close out the exercise at the Philippine Navy’s Headquarters Naval Forces West.

“The CARAT Philippine phase was successful because both of our military forces cooperated on many levels at sea and ashore,” Little said during his closing ceremony remarks.

CARAT is an annual series of bilateral military training exercises designed to enhance cooperative working partnerships with several Southeast Asian nations. Ensuring freedom of the seas by increasing maritime security efforts in the region is a primary focus of the CARAT series.

The Philippines phase of the 11th annual exercise series was marked with many milestones, including the first-time operational employment of the U.S. Navy’s Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS), a real-time communications capability that gave commanders a comprehensive tactical picture.

“It takes a little adjusting for a Filipino to understand the words spoken by an American and vice versa,” noted Philippine Vice Adm. Ruben Domingo, commander, Western Command during his closing remarks. “The exercise gave everyone the opportunity to get accustomed to each other’s way of communicating verbally or through the use of codes and signals using modern communication equipment.”

CENTRIXS was installed at the Philippine Navy’s (PN) CARAT headquarters ashore in Manila, enabling exercise “Orange” and “Blue” force commanders to have a communications capability that was not available before.

“This ability to communicate among each other, combined with our ability to plan and execute complex maritime security and warfare scenarios at sea, highlight our CARAT achievements and, most importantly, burnish our mutual respect and ability to depend upon our navies in the years to come,” Little said.

Building strong alliances is key when combating transnational criminals who increasingly use vital sea lanes in the area to commit acts of piracy or to transport illegal caches of weapons and drugs. The threat of maritime terrorism has become a transnational issue, Domingo said.

“Terrorists do not recognize national boundaries, and they do not discriminate on their targets,” Domingo said. “We have come to realize that collective effort is needed to effectively fight terrorism. This brings us back to one good reason why the conduct of the CARAT exercise should be done seriously, so that we can enhance our interoperability to fight terrorists wherever they are.”

Strengthening skill sets together is vital to combined forces, especially in the maritime interdiction arena. By learning each other’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) tactics, the teams were able to build confidence during pierside symposia held before taking the boardings to sea.

“We really worked on our interoperability, which can only strengthen maritime security in the region,” said Lt. Justin Long, USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60) operations officer.

Rodney M. Davis’ boarding team worked in tandem with the PN patrol ship Rizal (PS 74), while USS Paul Hamilton’s (DDG 60) boarding team paired up with the patrol ship Emelio Jacinto (PS 35).

Meanwhile, U.S. Navy P-3 Orion and PN Islander aircraft patrolled the skies in another first-ever search and rescue (SAR) event. The goal of the patrol aircraft was to locate personnel from a simulated mid-air collision scenario that had occurred between two military F/A-18 aircraft. Three kapok lifejackets and a barrel were used to represent the survivors and the aircraft, all of which were safely recovered.

“This event proved challenging and extremely rewarding for both SAR forces,” Little said.

Philippine Navy BO-105 helicopters got into the exercise action by completing deck landing qualifications aboard Rodney M. Davis. Four pilots made a total of 12 “bounces” on Rodney M. Davis’ flight deck. U.S. Navy SH-60B Seahawk helicopters played a variety of roles, including dropping the kapoks and barrel for the SAR exercise, and taking the aerial photograph of the combined Navy ship formation.

One-hundred fifty Philippine marines embarked USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) for a beach landing exercise. Five waves of two landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) took the marines ashore at San Miguel beach.

While others in the task group were at sea for the underway phase, USS Safeguard (ARS 50) conducted numerous interactive diving and salvage events at Subic Bay.

A hallmark of the CARAT Philippine phase was also what crews from U.S. and Philippine armed forces did together on behalf of the communities that hosted them. Before the exercise officially began Aug. 16, Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5, together with the Philippine Naval Construction brigade, got a head start on an engineering civic action project.

“Construction experts from U.S. Navy Seabees and Republic of Philippines Marine Engineers – better known as the 'Blue-Green Team,' put their collective experience and brick and mortar together in San Narciso to construct a building addition to Doce Martires Elementary School,” Little said. “'Well done' to both crews for what will provide a better learning environment for one of our greatest resources – our young people.”

At the same site and others, U.S. Navy doctors and dentists, along with their Philippine Navy counterparts, diagnosed and treated 1,500 patients over a six-day period.

Youth were also provided for during community service projects at Iram elementary and high schools. Twenty U.S. Sailors and four PN Seabees volunteered to construct a gazebo at the elementary school, while basketball backboards and goals were replaced at the high school. Basketballs, volleyballs and volleyball nets were also donated, according to Lt. Cdr. William Middleton, CARAT task group chaplain.

Another community relations project took 12 U.S. and six PN sailors to a home for deaf and blind children, where rice and mattresses were donated. The kids and the Sailors also entertained each other.

“It was inspiring to see a blind child playing the piano and a sailor dancing and singing to the music,” said Middleton. “The kids also taught us how to write our names in Braille.”

In the end, the U.S. CARAT task group commander said that building relationships is one of the most important outcomes of the exercise.

“This exercise is about junior officers building friendships. I hope you’ve exchanged addresses and e-mails with your counterparts, as I have,” Little said. “Our navies will be working together like this the next 25 to 30 years, and you will be the ones in charge.”

The CARAT 2005 task group, under the leadership of Little, was made up of the dock landing ship Harpers Ferry, the guided-missile destroyer Paul Hamilton, the frigate Rodney M. Davis, and the rescue and salvage ship Safeguard. Other elements, including P-3C Orion and SH-60 Seahawk aircraft, U.S. Navy Seabees, a U.S. Coast Guard training team, U.S. Army veterinarians and a variety of support commands also took part in CARAT.

Philippine CARAT assets included the patrol ships Rizal and Emelio Jacinto. Fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, two Naval Special Operations Groups, and the 1st Marine Battalion were also involved with the exercise.

CARAT began in 1995, combining a number of existing exercises to be conducted sequentially by a single U.S. Navy task group. CARAT Singapore was conducted May 30-June 13, while CARAT Thailand took place June 17-26. The nine-day CARAT Malaysia phase began July 8 and ended July 18. CARAT Indonesia was July 25-29. CARAT Brunei took place Aug. 4-12. The CARAT Task Group ships arrived in the Philippines Aug. 15 for the final phase of the CARAT series.

Rear Adm. Kevin M. Quinn is responsible for overall CARAT coordination for U.S. participants in his executive agent role as commander, Task Force 712.

Little’s staff, currently embarked aboard Harpers Ferry, is based in San Diego. Paul Hamilton is homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Rodney M. Davis in Everett, Wash. Harpers Ferry and Safeguard are forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan. The San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) participated in the Malaysia phase.


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