SOUTH CHINA SEA - Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) departed Kuantan, Malaysia June 19 after participating in the amphibious phase of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Malaysia 2014.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the CARAT exercise series, and the Malaysian Armed Forces have partnered with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps since the exercise began in 1995. Ashland's commanding officer, Cmdr. Doug Patterson, has a long history with CARAT. He participated in the first CARAT Malaysia in 1995 as an enlisted Sailor, and returned to the exercise in 2013, as executive officer of USS Tortuga (LSD 46), prior to its hull swap with Ashland.
"This is an annual exercise where the U.S. Navy goes out and participates with different regional allies on various scales," said Patterson. "It's a model of how the Malaysian Armed Forces, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps can cooperate and work together to address shared maritime security concerns and priorities."
From June 6-19, Ashland and an embarked landing force of Marines from 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, participated in amphibious training events and exchanges with Royal Malaysian Army Paratroopers in Kuantan and Tanjung Resang Beach. Ashland launched and recovered Assault Amphibious Vehicles (AAV) and Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) transporting Marines and soldiers from both nations during multiple beach landings. Moving inland, the combined force conducted several days of field exercises and jungle warfare training.
"For Ashland, our main objective was to support the Marines," said Patterson. "We are here to take the Marines where they need to go and support them while they're at sea. We support them getting ashore and once ashore, provide logistics for additional force for whatever requirements they have."
Ashland is participating in several phases of exercise CARAT 2014, a bilateral maritime exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
CARAT Malaysia continues through June 21 with a Command Post Exercise (CPX) in Lumut on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and P-8A Poseidon maritime partrol aircraft flights out of Labuan in East Malaysia.
More than 1,000 Sailors and Marines are participating in CARAT Malaysia 2014. Additional units include the guided missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91), the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, a platoon from Explosive Ordnance and Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 1, staff from Commander, Task Force 73 (CTF 73) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, and the U.S. Seventh Fleet Band, Orient Express.