GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines (July 1, 2012) Philippine navy sailors stand at attention to welcome the U.S. Navy as the USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) arrives for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Stephen Hickok)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines - The 2012 edition of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, between the U.S. Navy and Philippine Navy, began July 2 following the arrival here of a U.S. Navy Task Group.

The exercise is designed to enhance maritime security skills and operational cohesiveness among participating forces. It also focuses on relationship building between military participants through sports and social events, and improving community relations though a community service event.

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

“The Philippine and U.S. navies share a special relationship and history,” said Welch. “Our bilateral operations and training have matured over the past 60 years, and CARAT Philippines is a model for how an exercise series can evolve to bring new value each year.”

CARAT is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the 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 the host country 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.