U.S. Rear Adm. William McQuilkin and Royal Thai Navy Rear Adm. Paitoon Prasopsin speak to exercise participants and guests during the opening ceremony of CARAT Thailand, June 3. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Jay C. Pugh)

SATTAHIP, Thailand - The 19th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Royal Thai Navy and Royal Thai Marine Corps began June 3 with opening ceremonies in Sattahip.

CARAT Thailand 2013 brings together U.S.-Thai naval forces to conduct a series of shore-based and at sea training events designed to refine longstanding relationships, enhance interoperability and address mutual interests.

The Royal Thai Navy and Royal Thai Marine Corps have participated in CARAT since the exercise began in 1995. CARAT is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Training in each CARAT phase is tailored to meet shared priorities across a broad range of naval capabilities. CARAT Thailand 2013 will focus on combined operations at sea, amphibious landing events and highly realistic humanitarian assistance, disaster response scenarios. For the first time this year, U.S. Navy and RTN ships will transfer fuel during an underway replenishment at sea. The HADR scenario will feature a combined response to a simulated earthquake and tsunami involving engineers, salvage experts and civilian first responders.

"It is a pleasure to work side-by-side with our long-standing friends in the Royal Thai Navy and Royal Thai Marine Corps," said Rear Adm. William McQuilkin, Commander, Naval Forces Korea and executive agent for CARAT Thailand 2013. "This year's schedule reflects the evolving complexity of the past 19 years that our forces have participated in CARAT Thailand, and I expect our Sailors and Marines to benefit greatly from the upcoming training events."

Additional skill areas exercised during CARAT Thailand include maritime interdiction operations, air defense, undersea warfare, naval gunnery, riverine, search and rescue, diving and salvage, and medical training. Multiple opportunities to build personal and professional relationships between forces will also occur during military operations symposia, receptions, band concerts and sports events.

More than 1,200 U.S. Sailors, Marines and civilian mariners are participating in CARAT Thailand 2013. U.S. Navy ships include the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), dry cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11) and the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50). A USMC Landing Force Company is comprised of Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment with an attachment from 2nd Amphibian Assualt Battalion, 2nd Marine Division from Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Also participating in CARAT Thailand are a riverine squadron and medical professionals assigned to Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command (MCAST), Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Five (NMCB5), divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 (MUDSU), trainers from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 (EODMU5), P-3C Orion and MH-60 aircraft, and the U.S. Seventh Fleet Band, Orient Express.