SATTAHIP, Thailand (May 11, 2011) U.S. Navy Sailors participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2011 stand at attention, alongside their Royal Thai Navy counterparts during the opening ceremonies of the exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jose Lopez, Jr.)

SATTAHIP, Thailand — The arrival of four U.S. Navy ships and several aircraft arrived at various ports May 11 marks the beginning of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2011.

The first phase of CARAT features events ashore, such as engineering and damage control training exchanges, joint medical, dental and civic action projects, and joint community service projects at local schools. The at-sea phase is focused on developing maritime security capabilities in areas such as maritime interdiction, information sharing, combined operations at sea, patrols and gunnery exercises, and anti-piracy and anti-smuggling exercises.

“We expect this will be a historic year for CARAT, with some of the most complex training ever,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Carney, Commander, Task Force 73 and the Executive Agent for the exercise. “In the year since our last exercise the Thai Navy successfully completed its first anti-piracy mission as part of Task Force 151, and the aircraft carrier Chakri Narubet responded to floods in the South to save Thai citizens and international guests,” he said.

“These are both scenarios we’ve trained for in past CARAT exercises,” Carney added, “which underscores the value of the training the U.S. and Thai Navies have developed together.

Approximately 1,800 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel are participating in CARAT Thailand 2011. U.S. Navy ships from Task Group 73.1 include the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), the guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83), the frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57), and the rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50). Additional participants include an amphibious landing force of Marines from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, U.S. Navy Seabees, a U.S. Coast Guard training team, and P-3C Orion and SH-60 Seahawk aircraft.

CARAT is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and the Armed Forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Additionally, Vietnam participates in a CARAT-like skills exchange.