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U.S Navy and Royal Thai Navy Conclude CARAT Thailand 2019

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LAEM CHABANG – The United States Navy and the Royal Thai Navy have concluded their 25th year of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, or CARAT, drills at the Sattahip Naval Base in Chinburi, Thailand.

The 11-day exercise —ended with a ceremony aboard the USS Antietam at Sattahip Naval Base, Thailand — was the latest leg of this year’s series of shore-based exchanges and operational drills with several Southeast Asian nations. They feature a wide range of naval operations, including surface, undersea, aviation and amphibious warfare.

The exercise, designed to address shared maritime security concerns and strengthen partnerships, included practical training covering the entire spectrum of naval operations, subject matter expert knowledge exchanges, and community outreach events.

Thai forces first took part in CARAT in 1995, Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, Task Force 73 commander, said in a Navy statement.

The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Pioneer (MCM 9) observes a controlled mine detonation while conducting a joint mine countermeasures exercise with the Royal Thai Navy during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2019.

“For 25 years, we have worked together, shared knowledge and expertise, and have greatly improved our [ability to work with each other] — we’re stronger together.”

“This year marks a significant milestone in the U.S.-Thailand CARAT series because it represents a quarter century of a partnership that grows in strength and value every day,” said Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander, Task Force 73. “For 25 years, we have worked together, shared knowledge and expertise, and have greatly improved our interoperability – we’re stronger together.”

CARAT Thailand featured more than a dozen ships and aircraft from the U.S. and Royal Thai Navies engaged in training at-sea and ashore.

“It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to operate at sea with our Royal Thai Navy counterparts because it is something you just can’t simulate,” said Capt. Adrian Ragland, commodore, Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7. “The experience was invaluable and I can say with confidence that both sides took away a lot of knowledge and a better understanding of how each other operates.”

Mineman 2nd Class Shaun Lao, assigned to the Avenger-class Mine Countermeasure Ship USS Pioneer (MCM 9), shows members of the Royal Thai Navy a mine neutralization vehicle aboard Pioneer during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2019.

This year’s exercise also featured wide-ranging maritime training:

• Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) was a major focus of the exercise and consisted of numerous symposiums and knowledge exchanges, as well as a sea phase that included an integrated MDA Information Sharing Center.

• Submarine operations and tactics tabletop exercises, as well as integrated watch team practical drills inside the RTN Submarine Command Team Trainer.

• Integrated dive team training and practical dives between U.S. Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1 and the RTN Navy Diver and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Center.

• Jungle survival training between U.S. Marine Rotational Force-Darwin Task Force and Royal Thai Marine Corps.

• Medical casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) field training exercises between U.S. Navy and RTN medical personnel, as well as preventive medicine knowledge exchanges.

“No country alone can ensure maritime security,” said Lt. Dave Copeland, MDA expert for Destroyer Squadron 7. “It requires coordinated efforts by all regional partner nations and agencies to actively share information in a transparent and timely manner so that we can all effectively conduct combined maritime response operations.”

“Our U.S. and Thai Sailors working together to share information are exercising an important capability and building relationships,” said Tynch. “Trust is critical to generating maritime domain awareness – which is the bedrock of rules-based order in this region.”

Participating assets for CARAT Thailand 2019 included 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, Naval Environmental Preventive Medicine Unit 6, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, Patrol Squadron-8. Royal Thai Navy participation included various staffs and ships including HTMS Naresuan (FFG 421), HTMS Taksin (FFG 422), HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej (FFG 471), HTMS Rattanakosin (FS 441), HTMS Angthong (LPD 791), HTMS Lat Ya (MHS 633) and HTMS Mattapon (LCU 784).

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.

U.S. Navy Divers assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1 and Royal Thai Navy (RTN) Sailors assigned to RTN Navy Diver and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Center prepare to conduct a joint dive exercise off the coast of Pattaya, Thailand, while aboard the Military Sealift Command Safeguard-class salvage ship USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2019.

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.

By Gregory Johnson