JAVA SEA -- Military Sealift Command’s Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) took part in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Indonesia, in the Java Sea, Nov. 6.
The annual bilateral exercise included the full spectrum of naval capabilities and features cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of the United States and Indonesia Navies to work together.
“With the constantly changing dynamics in the region, I believe interoperability is very important in achieving our common goal which is peace and stability in the region,” said Capt. Erwin F. Lao, master of USNS Millinocket.
“Thorough planning and an open line of communication between both countries allow us to share ideas, practices and procedures – not just during the exercise but whenever we come together to execute a successful mission. The chance to engage like this is beneficial to both of us in the long run as we understand each other’s capabilities and how to maximize and augment them when working together.”
During the at-sea phase of the exercise, U.S. Navy assets worked with ships and aircraft from the Indonesian Navy, known as Tentera Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Laut (TNI-AL) In addition to Millinocket, U.S. Navy ships and aircraft included Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS 18), embarked MH-60S Seahawk helicopter of Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 23 and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72.
The afloat portion of CARAT featured complex at-sea training, including divisional tactics designed to enhance communication as ships sail together in complex maneuvers. It also consisted of a tracking exercise aimed at increasing both navies’ abilities to track and pursue targets through the coordinated deployment of surface ships and maritime patrol aircraft. Other focus areas included surface warfare; visit, board, search and seizure drills; mobile diving and salvage training; a gunnery exercise, maritime patrol operations; and exchanges between explosive ordnance disposal technicians.
Lao believes these CARAT events provided his crew and its Indonesian counterparts an opportunity to enhance interoperability, readiness and understanding. He adds that the 11-day exercise also strengthened the longstanding relationship between the two navies.
“Being in command of the USNS Millinocket since 2016, I witnessed the tremendous benefits my crew gained as a result of our interactions with Indonesia and other allies and partners in the region,” Lao said.
“Teamwork is just one of the attributes my crew has developed over the years through social and professional interaction with our allies and partners in the region. It also helps my crew to understand and appreciate better the different cultures in the region.
“It is a privilege to have that opportunity to train with our allies through a series of engagements like CARAT.”
Military Sealift Command Far East ensures approximately 50 ships in the Indo-Pacific region, including Millinocket, are manned, trained and equipped to deliver essential supplies, fuel, cargo, and equipment to warfighters, both at sea and on shore.
As the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet employs 50-70 ships and submarines across the Western Pacific and Indian oceans. U.S. 7th Fleet routinely operates and interacts with 35 maritime nations while conducting missions to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific Region.