Members of the Timor-Leste Defense Force and U.S. Sailors conduct a firehose handling skills exchange aboard USS Kidd (DDG 100). (U.S Navy/MC1 Jay C. Pugh)

PORT HERA NAVY BASE, Timor-Leste - The U.S. Navy and Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) commenced the second Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Timor-Leste exercise Feb. 24, with an opening ceremony at Port Hera Navy Base.

CARAT Timor-Leste is part of an annual bilateral exercise series between the U.S. Navy and the naval forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand. As a longstanding venue in Southeast Asia, CARAT helps regional navies work together to address shared maritime security priorities during a series of cooperative training events and subject matter exchanges.

Capt. Fred Kacher, deputy commander, Destroyer Squadron Seven (DESRON SEVEN) delivered remarks at the ceremony alongside officials from the Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) and American Embassy Dili.

Kacher noted that while the F-FDTL was the newest participant of the CARAT exercise series, the upcoming schedule of training activities, skills transfers and people-to-people exchanges would help establish personal and professional relationships that would serve both navies for many years to come.

"CARAT provides tremendous opportunities for our Sailors to work side-by-side with another nation's maritime force and share valuable operational skills from basic navigation and seamanship to military medicine and shipboard firefighting," said Kacher.

The exercise is just one aspect of the growing U.S.-Timor Leste partnership, which includes annual port calls by U.S. Navy ships, visits by senior U.S. Navy leaders and ongoing civic action projects by U.S. Navy Seabees deployed to the CCAD here for the past decade.

"With the completion of each successive training event during CARAT, our forces are doing their part to strengthen and deepen a broader partnership based on our shared maritime security values and interests," said Kacher.

During this year's exercise, U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to USS Kidd (DDG 100) and Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD) will train with their F-FDTL counterparts at Port Hera and the surrounding area. In addition to several maritime training events aboard Kidd, community service projects, receptions and sporting events will allow participants to interact with the local community.

Sailors from USS Kidd (DDG 100) members of the Timor-Leste Defense Force stand in formation during the opening ceremony of CARAT Timor-Leste, Feb. 24. (U.S Navy/MC1 Jay C. Pugh)