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Bilateral exercise CARAT Timor-Leste 2021 solidifies maritime partnerships

Lt. j.g. Mohammad Issa/U.S. Navy

As part of the 27th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) series, the exercise in Timor-Leste concluded in mid-December 2021 following nine days of virtual, in-person and at-sea engagements. The event enhanced collaboration between the Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) and the United States military and focused on shared maritime security challenges.

U.S. assets participating in the at-sea portion of CARAT Timor-Leste included the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston and embarked MH-60S Seahawk helicopters of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21. U.S. personnel included staff from Commander Task Force 76, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, U.S. 7th Fleet, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Embassy Dili, Timor-Leste.

The exercise focused on multiple land and at-sea capabilities and highlighted the ability of Timor-Leste and the U.S. to work together to ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

“Over these nine days of exercise events, Timor-Leste and U.S. naval forces made tremendous progress in learning more about each other’s capabilities and building trust and understanding between our operators,” said Capt. Tom Ogden, commodore, DESRON 7. “This level of collaboration prepares our forces to work together during real-world operations and in support of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”

The at-sea phase took place near Port Hera, Timor-Leste, where F- FDTL members embarked on the USS Charleston for training focused on building interoperability and strengthening relationships. The exercise featured subject matter expert exchanges on navigation; engineering and damage control; and visit, board, search and seizure training, pictured.

During the harbor phase, F-FDTL personnel and U.S. Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force conducted combined training, including in-person instruction and practical application on small arms, martial arts and urban combat, as well as small boat maintenance and maritime security. The virtual subject matter expert exchanges featured joint training on maritime law enforcement and medical topics for seagoing personnel.

“The Sailors and Marines involved in CARAT Timor-Leste executed events perfectly and grew stronger bonds with their F-FDTL counterparts,” Ogden said. “We look forward to continue to build on our partnership during future engagements including CARAT 2022.”

The CARAT exercise series addresses maritime security concerns and strengthens partnerships among regional navies. With nearly two decades of diplomatic relations, Timor-Leste and the U.S. continue to work closely to advance a shared vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific region. CARAT Timor-Leste 2021 underscored this shared commitment.

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