U.S. military and Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) partnered for the 26th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) maritime exercise off the coast of Brunei in early October 2020.
Exercise CARAT Brunei symbolizes the nations’ long-standing maritime partnership. CARAT expands bilateral and multilateral exercises, ensures maritime security, stability and prosperity, and highlights the United States’ commitment to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
“Even though we cannot meet face to face this year, this does not affect our strong partnership,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7. “Meeting both virtually and at sea to exchange Navy and Marine Corps skills with our Brunei partners helps us build relationships so that we can communicate and operate together in good times, as well as challenging ones.”
Events were conducted with COVID-19 mitigation measures in place. Using integrated technology for virtual content generation and collaboration, for example, resulted in successful planning of a multievent exercise Subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) that took place online, using real-time virtual meetings and prerecorded webinars.
Lt. Col. Saifulrizal bin Abdul Latif, chief of staff, RBAF Joint Forces Headquarters, highlighted the first special operations force SMEE milestone during CARAT 2020 and stressed the importance of continued partnership.
“It would be of great value to know that, despite the difficulties we may face on the 26th iteration of CARAT, we would still be able to achieve its objectives and further enhance our abilities to operate together in response to traditional and nontraditional maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
The virtual SMEEs featured joint training opportunities including: vessel interdiction and boarding; U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Brunei Land Force cooperation; explosive ordnance disposal; riverine security; replenishment at sea best practices; and a Women, Peace and Security symposium. Other virtual exchanges included maritime domain awareness, unmanned aerial vehicles and anti-terrorism force protection.
The at-sea phase took place in the South China Sea, with events designed to enhance interoperability, including tracking and pursuing targets through coordinated deployment of surface ships and maritime patrol aircraft, and search and rescue exercises.
During the virtual opening ceremony, U.S. Navy Capt. Ann McCann, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7, emphasized that the foundation of U.S.-Brunei cooperation and training rests in friendships made during time spent together. (Pictured: U.S. Navy Capt. Ann McCann listens to opening remarks during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei in October 2020.)
“While 2020 has been a unique year, it has not deterred the opportunity for us to come together during our CARAT events,” McCann said. “I look forward for our forces to do what they have always done so well — strengthen bonds and exchange military best practices.”
CARAT, the U.S. Navy’s oldest and longest continually running regional exercise in South and Southeast Asia, strengthens partnerships among regional navies and enhances maritime security cooperation and interoperability throughout the Indo-Pacific. It builds on other engagements in the region, including Pacific Partnership, Maritime Training Activity and Pacific Griffin.