LUMUT, Malaysia (June 14, 2012) The U.S. Coast Guard national security cutter USCGC Waesche (WMSL 751) prepares to moor at Lumut Naval Base to participate in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Aaron Glover)

LUMUT, Malaysia - The 18th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U. S. Coast Guard and the Royal Malaysian Navy, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and Malaysian Army, begins June 15, with the U.S. Navy Task Group and Marine landing force arriving here the day before.

The exercise is designed to enhance maritime skills and operational cohesiveness among the participating forces. It also focuses on relationship building between military participants through professional military exchanges, sports and social events, and improving relationships with the civilian community through civic action projects and community service events.

Capt. Dave Welch, commander, Destroyer Squadron 31, based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, leads CARAT Task Group 73.1.

"CARAT Malaysia 2012 is a fine example of what this exercise is all about," said Welch, who leads CARAT now for the second consecutive year. "We build on the past 18 years of cooperation, and find new exercises and methods to enhance our mutual understanding and build on the friendship and understanding between the armed forces of our great nations."

This year, CARAT Malaysia highlights include a combined command post exercise, installation of a solar powered electrical back-up system at a local hospital, community service projects, underwater explosive ordnance training, search and rescue training and a simulated attack with U.S. Marines and Royal Malaysian Army soldiers.

CARAT is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Timor Leste joins the exercise for the first time in 2012.

While the training in each phase of CARAT varies based on shared goals of host nations and the U.S., a common theme is the development of maritime security capabilities, and increasing interoperability among participants. Skill areas exercised during CARAT include Maritime Interception Operations; riverine, amphibious and undersea warfare operations; diving and salvage operations; naval gunnery and maneuvering events, along with disaster response exercises.

U.S. Navy ships participating in CARAT 2012 include the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48), U.S. Coast Guard national security cutter USCGC Waesche (WMSL-751) and the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50). Other participants include Marines from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who will work with Royal Malaysian Army forces, an SH-60 Seahawk aircraft, the U.S. SEVENTH Fleet Band, and others.

Approximately 1,000 U.S. personnel are participating in CARAT Malaysia 2012.