In this file photo, a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion flies past the the Royal Brunei Navy offshore patrol vessel KDB Darulaman (PV 08) during last year's CARAT exercise. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Derek A. Harkins)

MAURA, Brunei - The 21st annual exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei commenced with an opening ceremony at Maura Naval Base, Nov. 2.

CARAT Brunei 2015 will continue through Nov. 11, and feature 10 days of shore-based and at-sea training events designed to address shared maritime security priorities, develop relationships, and enhance cooperation between the U.S. and Royal Brunei navies.

CARAT is the premier naval engagement with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and remains a credible venue to address shared maritime security challenges, strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance interoperability.

"Our nations share a strong commitment to security cooperation that contributes to the stability and peace of the region," said Rear Adm. Charlie Williams, commander, Task Force 73. "We continue to benefit from our mature maritime partnership that allows us to increase the complexity of our training each year and enhance interoperability between our forces.”

As one of the original CARAT partners, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces have been part of CARAT since the exercise series began in 1995 and the United States and Brunei have enjoyed diplomatic relations since 1845, when the USS Constitution dropped anchor in the Brunei Bay.

In its 21st year, CARAT is a bilateral exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps 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.

CARAT is an adaptable, flexible exercise; its scenarios are tailored with inputs from the United States and partner nations to meet shared maritime security priorities, such as counter-piracy, counter-smuggling, maritime interception operations and port security. The exercise series is also a venue to share the latest best practices in search and rescue, military law and medicine, and humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR).

Capt. H. B. Le, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7 discussed the importance of CARAT Brunei as it relates to bilateral maritime security cooperation. "Training side by side with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces during CARAT increases our operational readiness and prepares us to face real-world challenges together," said Le. "This week’s exercise is a great opportunity for our navies to go to sea and become more familiar with each other’s operations and equipment, which is important in advancing our interoperability."

Highlighting this year’s exercise, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces’ Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopter will make deck landings onboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), while a U.S. Navy MH-60R helicopter will make landings on the flight deck of the Royal Brunei Ship Darulehsan. A P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will conduct maritime domain awareness missions alongside patrol aircraft from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. Additionally, the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) will participate in a CARAT exercise for the first time during the sea phase.

On land, U.S. Marines from the 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion (3rd LEB) will work alongside soldiers from the Royal Brunei Landing Force (RBLF) during a four-day jungle operations exercise. Additionally, Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked on the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) will work with counterparts from the RBLF during a military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) training exercise.

Also taking place throughout exercise CARAT 2015 are professional symposia to share best practices in military law, military medicine, maritime security, public affairs and aviation maintenance, as well as hands-on training at sea in combined operations, naval gunnery, search and rescue, diving and salvage, and maritime interdiction.

More than 500 U.S. Sailors and Marines will participate in CARAT Brunei including personnel assigned to USS Lassen, USS Anchorage, USNS Millinocket, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, Marines from 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), coastal riverine group (CRG) 1, staff from Commander, Task Force (CTF) 73 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, and the U.S. 7th Fleet Band, Orient Express.

CTF 73 and DESRON 7 staff conduct advanced planning, organize resources and directly support the execution of maritime exercises such as the bilateral CARAT series, the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam, and the multi-lateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.