Sailors aboard USS Freedom (LCS 1) heave a line during sea and anchor detail as Freedom prepares to get underway from Singapore Sept. 2 in support of Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karolina A. Oseguera)

SOUTH CHINA SEA - The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) got underway Sept. 2 to participate in the 11th annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise with several regional navies, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

SEACAT highlights the value of information sharing and multilateral cooperation in scenarios that give participating navies hands-on practice in maritime security operations.

Freedom's participation includes several boarding events conducted with her embarked visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams, 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB) and MH-60R helicopter. A team of trainers from Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training (MCAST) will evaluate participating boarding teams.

"We expect a lot of valuable training as we work with regional navies to strengthen VBSS capabilities and enhance interoperability," said Freedom's Commanding Officer Cmdr. Pat Thien. "This exercise is tailor-made to showcase Freedom's speed, maneuverability, shallow draft and surface warfare mission package while deployed to Southeast Asia."

Continuing through Sept. 12, SEACAT includes both a command post exercise (CPX) at Singapore's Changi Naval Base and a field training exercise (FTX) that takes place in several regional locations at sea. Additional Military Sealift Command ships are participating as simulated vessels of interest with navies from the Philippines and Thailand, while a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion aircraft will pass contact data on simulated vessels of interest throughout the exercise.

"SEACAT fosters regional relationships," said Freedom's Operations Officer Lt. Cmdr. Brandon Epps. "Working together in a multilateral exercise enhances dialogue and practical cooperation during realistic scenarios."

Operations Specialist Seaman Anthony Villa checked on board Freedom last December and says he appreciates the many learning opportunities the ship has provided him. "For SEACAT, I will be involved in evolutions such as launching the RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat), flight quarters and command briefs," said Villa. "I wouldn't be as involved in these exercises if I were on another ship."

USS Freedom departed on her maiden overseas rotational deployment to Southeast Asia March 1. SEACAT is one of the key exercises and exchanges with regional navies taking place during Freedom's deployment. Since arriving in the region, Freedom has also participated in Singapore's International Maritime Defence Exhibition, and two phases of the bilateral exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) - CARAT Malaysia and CARAT Singapore.