USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) operates in the Sulu Sea during CARAT Malaysia last week. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Joe Bishop)

SULU SEA - The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) wrapped up its participation in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises with both Indonesia and Malaysia following an Aug. 21 closing ceremony held in Sandakan, Malaysia.

CARAT is a series of bilateral naval exercises between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

In deepening navy-to-navy relationships, Fort Worth visited Surabaya, Indonesia, for the first time in her 16-month rotational deployment to U.S. 7th Fleet. This port visit is particularly significant for Fort Worth, as she was part of the Indonesian-led Air Asia search efforts in the Java Sea.

"It was a pleasure operating at sea with our TNI-AL (Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Laut) naval partners during the sea phase of CARAT Indonesia", said Cmdr. Christopher Brown, commanding officer of Fort Worth. "Fort Worth once again demonstrated its combat capabilities and relevance in the region while fostering long-term personal and professional relationships with our Southeast Asian partners."

CARAT is a model of how the TNI-AL and U.S. navies can cooperate and work together to enhance interoperability, develop relationships and address shared maritime security priorities, as in the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercises. TNI Sailors conducted their first VBSS boarding of Fort Worth during this year's CARAT.

"During CARAT Indonesia LCS SUW DET FOUR (Surface Warfare Mission Package, Detachment 4) and the Indonesian navy had an outstanding opportunity to interact and exchange VBSS tactics and hold discussions about our different capabilities", said Lt. j.g. Andrew Pena, officer in charge of Detachment 4. "These positive interactions culminated in two successful at-sea VBSS exercises between our navies."

This year's CARAT Indonesia also provided the opportunity for TNI pilots to practice deck landings on the flight deck of Fort Worth with a Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm BO-105 Indonesian navy helicopter.

CARAT Malaysia 2015 consists of five days of shore-based and at sea training events designed to address shared maritime security concerns, build relationships, and enhance interoperability among participating forces.

"This marks the 21st year that the U.S. and Malaysian Armed Forces have come together for CARAT and our enhanced military partnership today reflects the maturity of this relationship," said Rear Adm. Charlie Williams, commander, Task Force 73. "Partnerships matter in this region; sustained partnerships matter even more."

The Royal Malaysian Navy for the first time conducted deck landing practice with its Super Lynx helicopter on the flight deck of Fort Worth. The bilateral and multilateral exercises provide a regional venue to develop strong maritime partnerships that contribute to the greater peace and stability of the region.

"CARAT is a practical way for our two navies to address shared maritime security priorities in a realistic training environment," said Capt. H.B. Le, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7.

"The Malaysian Armed Forces have been a part of CARAT since its inception, and our partnership's spanning more than two decades demonstrates a firm mutual commitment to stability and security throughout the region."

U.S. units participating in the exercise include the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), a P-3C Orion, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1, and U.S. Marines assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (III MEB).

The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy's largest numbered fleet, U.S. 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.