KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia - The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Aug. 19, for a port visit after participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Malaysia 2018.
The CARAT exercise allowed U.S. Sailors and Marines to work side-by-side with Malaysian counterparts and helped improve our relationships with each other.
“We are proud of the tremendous work that American Sailors and Marines are doing to strengthen our partnership with our great teammates in the Malaysian military,” said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander, Amphibious Force U.S. 7th Fleet.
The amphibious beach assault consisted of three landing craft air cushions (LCAC) storming the sand with U.S. Marines and Malaysian soldiers. With the help of both Malaysian helicopters and F-35B Lighting II fighter jets, attached to the “Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, the exercise was complete.
The exercise also allowed approximately 40 Malaysian soldiers to embark Essex to see how different aspects of shipboard life are conducted on a U.S. warship and learn from other U.S. Marines they worked closely with.
“Working with the Malaysian marines was a great experience, and I hope I get to be involved in something like this again,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brycen Fink, assigned to Battalion Landing Team 3/1. “I feel like they learned a lot from us but at the same time, we learned a lot from them.”
VMFA 211 demonstrated the unique capabilities of the F-35B with flight operations and ordnance detonation.
“Marine Corps F-35Bs launching from the deck of USS Essex and striking targets ashore as part of routine training simply makes us a more lethal force,” said Cooper.
The 10-day exercise concluded aboard Essex with a reception where over 100 guests attended.
“The tremendous effort put forth by the U.S. and Royal Malaysian Navy Sailors and Marines working alongside each other to complete such complex evolutions speaks to the professionalism and energy everyone brought to CARAT Malaysia and the growing strength of our partnership”, said Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, Commander Task Force 73. "The amphibious beach assault demonstration, diving salvage surveys on a sunken vessel and numerous other evolutions at sea were all successful because of the hard work, dedication and trust we have in each other to work together towards ensuring maritime security, stability and prosperity."
U.S. Sailors and Marines aboard Essex will continue to strengthen relationships with residents of Kota Kinabalu while visiting the local establishments and attending cultural tours.
The Essex ARG/13th MEU is deployed to the 7th fleet area of operations to support regional stability, reassure partners and allies and maintain a presence postured to respond to any crisis ranging from humanitarian assistance to contingency operations.