Rear Adm. Tom Carney, left, and First Adm. Dato Seri Pahlawan Haji Abdul Halim converse after the opening ceremony Nov. 5 for the 18th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise between the U.S. Navy and Royal Brunei Armed Forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael Ard)

MUARA, Brunei - The U.S. Navy and Royal Brunei Armed Forces marked the official commencement of the 18th Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei exercise with an opening ceremony at Muara Naval Base Nov. 5, a day after the guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57) pulled into port.

Rear Adm. Tom Carney, Commander of the U.S. Navy's Task Force 73, noted Brunei was among the original participants of CARAT, since the maritime exercise series began in 1995.

“With this foundation built over several years, CARAT Brunei has become increasingly productive with scenarios tailored to relevant RBAF training requirements, including support to UN Peace Keeping missions, humanitarian assistance/ disaster relief and offshore security,” Carney said.

More than 300 U.S. Sailors and Marines will conduct a series of training events both ashore and at sea during CARAT Brunei 2012. Participating units include the guided missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57) with embarked SH-60 Seahawk helicopter, Marines from 1st Battalion 3rd Marines, a P-3C Orion aircraft from Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 5 (VP5) and the U.S. 7th Fleet Band, Orient Express.

Many of these units participated in past CARAT exercises, and USS Reuben James visited Brunei last spring during a port visit.

“I am thrilled to be back in Brunei,” said Commander Daniel Valascho, commanding officer of Reuben James. “It’s a beautiful country and I know the crew is excited to train with the Royal Brunei Navy.”

During the five-day exercise, Sailors from both nations will conduct training exchanges and share best practices on a range of topics, from damage control and diving operations to maritime law enforcement and proliferation security. U.S. Marines and their Royal Brunei Land Force counterparts will conduct extensive training in Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT). SH-60 and P-3C Orion aircraft will fly missions in support of search and rescue training.

Additionally, several partnership-building events are planned, including band concerts, community service projects, receptions and sporting events between forces of both nations.

At sea, both USS Reuben James and two Royal Brunei Navy ships will conduct a variety of evolutions including maritime security scenarios, shipboard helicopter operations, a search and rescue practical, division tactics and surface gunfire drills.

CARAT is a series of bilateral maritime exercises between the U.S. Navy and the Armed Forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste.