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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2021

Bilateral Exercise CARAT Timor-Leste 2021 Concludes, Solidifies Maritime Partnerships

By Lt.j.g. Mohammad Issa

DILI, East Timor -- As part of the 27th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) series, CARAT Timor-Leste 2021 concluded Dec. 15, following nine days of virtual, in-person and at-sea engagements that enhanced collaboration between the Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) and U.S. military and focused on shared maritime security challenges of the region.

U.S. assets participating in the at-sea portion of CARAT Timor-Leste included the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) and embarked MH-60S Seahawk helicopter of Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 21. U.S. personnel ashore and via virtual connectivity included staff from Commander Task Force (CTF) 76, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, U.S. 7th Fleet, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Embassy Dili.

The exercise focused on a multitude of land and at-sea capabilities and featured cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of Timor-Leste and the U.S. to work together towards the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“Over these nine days of exercise events, Timor-Leste and U.S. naval forces made tremendous progress in learning more about each other’s capabilities and building trust and understanding between our operators,” said Capt. Tom Ogden, commodore, DESRON 7. “This level of collaboration prepares our forces to work together during real-world operations and in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The at-sea phase took place in the waters near Port Hera, where F-FDTL members embarked on Charleston for partnered training focused on building interoperability and strengthening relationships. The exercise featured onboard subject matter expert exchanges on navigation, engineering and damage control, and visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS).

During the harbor phase, F-FDTL and U.S. Marines from First Marine Expeditionary Force worked together in a variety of combined training events to include in-person instruction and practical application on Marine small arms, martial arts and urban combat as well as small boat maintenance and maritime security. The virtual subject matter expert exchange events featured joint training opportunities on maritime law enforcement and medical topics for seagoing personnel.

“The Sailors and Marines involved in CARAT Timor-Leste executed events perfectly and grew stronger bonds with their F-FDTL counterparts,” said Ogden. “We look forward to continue to build on our partnership during future engagements including CARAT 2022.”

The CARAT exercise series, celebrating its 27th anniversary, is designed to address shared maritime security concerns and strengthens partnerships between regional navies. With nearly two decades of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Timor-Leste, the two countries continue to work closely together to advance a shared vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region. CARAT Timor-Leste 2021 underscores this shared commitment.

As the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed destroyer squadron in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, functions as ESG 7’s Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements.

Under Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

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