COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 concluded in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan. 26, following eight days of in-person and at-sea engagements that enhanced collaboration between the Sri Lanka and U.S. militaries.
CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka took place in Colombo, at Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) bases in Trincomalee and Mullikullam, and in the Laccadive Sea, Jan. 19-26. The exercise focused on increasing proficiency in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief (HADR), and maritime security capabilities.
“From our maritime roots comes a reliance on the sea for our prosperity, and a shared vision of a world in which all sovereign states can peacefully interact with each other and participate in a rules-based order,” said Rear Adm. Joaquin J. Martinez de Pinillos, vice commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. “This exercise, and the efforts of all who helped bring it to life, are a testament to the United States and Sri Lanka’s commitment to achieving that shared vision.”
SLN offshore patrol vessels SLNS Gajabahu (P 626) and SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627) met amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), at sea. This year’s exercise included participants from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and Maldives National Defence Force, as well as the Sri Lanka Air Force.
For the HADR training, two USN landing craft transferred troops, supplies, and vehicles ashore to a beach area of Mullikulam. The subsequent exercises tested and improved the partners’ ability to coordinate and communicate with one another in a simulated disaster environment.
“I thank all participants for their commitment and enthusiasm throughout the exercise and really appreciate all the hard work and level of professionalism demonstrated throughout the last few days in order to conduct this exercise beyond expectations,” said Commander of the SLN Vice Adm. Priyantha Perera. “I hope this good relationship among Sri Lanka, United States, Japan and Maldives will continue progressively in the future to cherish the strong relationships that we are maintaining to effectively address common interests.”
Additional exercises conducted at sea included divisional tactics, visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS), replenishment-at-sea approaches, and reconnaissance and gunnery exercises. Helicopters aboard Anchorage successfully carried out VBSS exercises, embarkation, and disembarkation of personnel and material on the decks of the SLN ships involved in the sea phase.
Shore phase highlights included a Women, Peace and Security roundtable with members of the Sri Lanka and U.S. militaries hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, public performances between both countries’ navy bands, a sports day, and a series of community service activities.
"During this fifth iteration of CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka, our two countries were able to conduct knowledge exchanges with follow-on practical application,” said Lt. Col. Jared Reddinger, commanding officer, Battalion Landing Team 2/4, 13th MEU. “In doing so, we sharpened our skills, improved interoperability, and worked together towards a mutual vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The shore phase training consisted of subject matter expert exchanges on issues like diving and underwater construction, medical support, and maritime domain awareness. Additional participating U.S. assets included a P-8A Poseidon and personnel from U.S. 7th Fleet, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, CTF 73, CTF 76/3, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, and Amphibious Squadron 7.
“Both on land and at sea, the success of the CARAT exercise is a testament to the depth of the U.S. – Sri Lanka bilateral relationship, which is 75 years strong,” said Ambassador Chung. “We look forward to building on this partnership to continue to advance the security and prosperity of the region.”
CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a bilateral exercise between Sri Lanka and the United States designed to promote regional security cooperation, practice humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and strengthen maritime understanding, partnerships, and interoperability.
In its 28th year, the CARAT series is comprised of multinational exercises, designed to enhance U.S. and partner forces’ abilities to operate together in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU are trained to operate in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
As the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed DESRON in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, functions as CTF 76/3 Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements as the executing agent of Commander, Task Group CARAT.
Task Force 76/3 recently formed as a result of merging the staffs of Navy's Task Force 76, 7th Fleet, and 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.