USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) arrives in Chittagong to take part in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Cody Hitson)

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh - The fourth annual exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh commenced with an opening ceremony at Naval Base Issa Khan, Sept. 25.

Continuing through Sept. 30, CARAT Bangladesh 2014 consists of six days of shore-based and at-sea training events designed to address shared maritime security priorities, develop relationships and enhance cooperation among participating forces.

"In just a few years, CARAT Bangladesh has become the premier engagement between our navies," said Rear Adm. Charlie Williams, commander, Task Force 73 and U.S. 7th Fleet's executive agent for theater security cooperation in South Asia. "CARAT provides a credible venue to sharpen skills, share knowledge and practice cooperation in this vital maritime region."

In its 20th year, CARAT is a bilateral exercise series between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of nine partner nations in South and Southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste. Though a relatively new participant, Bangladesh stands out as the only South Asian nation in the CARAT series and the exercise continues to make steady progress each year.

Training events in each CARAT phase are tailored based on available assets and mutual exercise goals across a broad range of naval capabilities. For the first time, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will participate in CARAT Bangladesh alongside the Bangladesh Navy's Dornier 228 NG maritime patrol aircraft, taking naval aviation training to the next level and enhancing shared maritime domain awareness.

In the Bay of Bengal, the diving and salvage vessel USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) with an embarked mobile diving and salvage unit, will work with Bangladesh Navy ships including the former Hamilton-class cutter, BNS Somudro Joy (F-28), the frigate BNS Banga Bandu (F-25) and an AW-109 naval helicopter. Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 staff will embark Somudro Joy as part of a ship rider exchange.

"We are looking forward to going to sea with the Bangladesh Navy this year and training with their ships and aircraft in the Bay of Bengal," said Capt. Fred Kacher, DESRON 7 commodore. "We expect to learn a great deal from them about operating in these vital waters which connect our navies and our nations."

U.S. Navy divers and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians will train alongside the Bangladesh Navy's elite Special Warfare Diving and Salvage (SWADS) unit in Chittagong and the surrounding area. Focus areas will include close quarters battle, small boat maintenance, demolition techniques, hydrographic surveys, diving medicine, and salvage operations.

Legal and medical professionals from both navies will exchange best practices during military law and medicine symposia. Receptions, sporting events, and community service projects will broaden opportunities to develop personal relationships.

U.S. Navy units participating in CARAT Bangladesh include the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) with embarked Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft operated by Patrol Squadron (VP) 5, staff from Commander, Task Force (CTF) 73 and Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, Afloat Training Group Western Pacific (ATGWP), Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, and Navy Environmental and Preventative Medicine Unit (NEPMU) 6.