PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines (June 28, 2011) Philippine Navy Vice Commander Orwen Cortez listens as Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, answers a question during a press conference following the opening ceremonies for CARAT Philippines 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher S. Johnson)

PUERTO PRINCESSA, Philippines -- Three U.S. Navy ships arrived in Puerto Princesa, Philippines, to launch the 17th Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines, June 28.

Guided-missile destroyers USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Howard (DDG 83) and diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) are the U.S. Navy's centerpieces for the exercise, which features 11 days of training exchanges with the Philippine navy, both ashore and at sea.

This year marks the second time in recent years that CARAT has been held in Palawan. The exercise was held in Puerto Princesa in 2008; in 2009, the exercise was held in Cebu, and in 2010 at Subic Bay.

Ashore training includes such specialties as Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) exercises; diver training; salvage operations; joint medical, dental and civic action projects, and aircrew familiarization exchanges. Additionally, there will be symposia on operations planning, search and rescue practices, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, interagency cooperation and public affairs.

The at sea phase of CARAT focuses on developing maritime security capabilities in areas such as maritime interdiction, information sharing, combined operations at sea, patrol operations and gunnery exercises, plus anti-piracy and anti-smuggling exercises.

"The U.S. and Philippine navies have a long history of working together, and exercises like CARAT provide a great venue for us to hone our skills and increase our interoperability," said Capt. David Welch, Commander, Task Group 73.1 and the commander for the exercise.

Approximately 800 U.S. Navy personnel are participating in CARAT Philippines 2011. In addition to the three ships, other participants include U.S. Navy Seabees, a U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST), U.S. Navy Mobile Security Squadron, U.S. Navy Riverine Forces, Medical Support personnel, and P-3C Orion and SH-60 Seahawk aircraft.

CARAT is a series of annual bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and the Armed Forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. The CARAT series began in 1995 with six partner nations; Cambodia joined the series in 2009, and Bangladesh joined in 2010.

For more news from Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, visit www.navy.mil/local/carat/.

PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines (June 28, 2011) A Filipino Marine sentry awaits the USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) to be brought pierside as the ship arrives to participate in CARAT Philippines 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Robert Clowney)