Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) and U.S. military are partnering in the 27th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) maritime exercise, virtually, on land, and in the territorial waters surrounding Port Hera, December 6. The nine-day engagement focuses on naval and land force capabilities and features cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of the U.S. and Timor-Leste to work together toward the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific. The at-sea phase will take place near Port Hera, where F-FDTL members will embark on a U.S. Navy ship for partnered training focused on building interoperability and strengthening relationships. U.S. Navy ship and aircraft include Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) and embarked MH-60S Seahawk helicopter of Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 21.
The at-sea training will serve to enhance F-FDTL sovereign ability to monitor and enforce maritime zones and develop personal and professional skills to support operations. The exercise will feature onboard subject matter expert exchanges on navigation, engineering and damage control, and visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS). F-FDTL and U.S. Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force will work together in a variety of combined trainings during the harbor phase. The harbor phase will include in-person instruction and practical application on Marine small arms, martial arts and urban combat as well as small boat maintenance and maritime security. U.S. personnel include staff from CTF 76, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, U.S. 7th Fleet, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Embassy Dili. Virtual subject matter expert exchange events will feature joint training opportunities on maritime law and enforcement and medical topics for seagoing personnel.
“A common theme across the CARAT exercise series is the shared development of maritime capabilities in support of security, stability and prosperity throughout South and Southeast Asia. The United States and our CARAT partners depend on and provide security for the free flow of commerce that enables the global economy. CARAT is a demonstration of the consistent effort to build and maintain maritime capability. The Timor-Leste Defense Force has been part of CARAT since 2012, and we remain committed to strengthening this partnership through more frequent and sophisticated engagements,” said Capt. Tom Ogden, commodore, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7.
The CARAT exercise series, celebrating its 27th anniversary, is designed to address shared maritime security concerns and strengthens partnerships between regional navies. With nearly a two decades of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Timor-Leste, the two countries continue to work closely together to advance a shared vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region. CARAT Timor-Leste 2021 underscores this shared commitment. As the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed destroyer squadron in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, functions as ESG 7’s Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements. Under Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.