MULLIKULAM, Sri Lanka –
U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) scenario as part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training/Marine Exercise (CARAT/MAREX) 2023 series in Mullikulam, Sri Lanka from January 22 to 24, 2023.
CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a bilateral exercise between Sri Lanka and the United States designed to promote regional security cooperation, practice HA/DR, and strengthen maritime understanding, partnerships, and interoperability.
The HA/DR exercise was a joint simulated scenario in which U.S. and Sri Lankan Marines distributed food and water, with Sri Lankan role players acting as representatives from the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance and an associated Non-Governmental Organization with the Sri Lankan government. The goal of the exercise was to exchange practices and procedures, and increase interoperability in the event that the United States would conduct a real humanitarian mission in the Indo-Pacific region.
To commence the scenario, the Marines and Sailors conducted an amphibious landing into Mullikulam via landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) platforms launched from the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23). Upon arriving at the beach landing site, the landing force offloaded their vehicles, equipment, and personnel, and staged for the following day of simulated distribution.
“Training with our partner forces allows us to understand how we would integrate with them in the event of a real humanitarian assistance mission,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Busalacchi, assistant operations officer with Combat Logistics Battalion 13. “These joint training exercises allow us to refine and improve our own tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as exchange best-practices between the U.S. Marine Corps and our host nation counterparts. We feel confident in our abilities to execute any mission that comes our way, having integrated and trained with our partners on the ground.”
As part of the scenario, the Marines from CLB-13, 13th MEU, purified ocean water on the beach in Mullikulam using the Lightweight Water Purification System (LWPS). The following day, the Marines and Sailors trained with a Sri Lanka Marine Corps HA/DR platoon, and began distributing simulated food and water in the training area.
“This is a nice opportunity and a very important event,” said Lt. Cmdr. Prasad Rajarathna with the Sri Lanka Marine Corps. “Learning how to engage with the forces, especially American Marines, we learn a lot with them. We learn how to distribute food and essential items for our people, especially in a difficult situation and I think it’s important to know as a military person, how to help our people.”
CLB-13 Marines used the assets they brought ashore, including the Multi-Terrain Vehicle Replacement (MTVR), the MTVR Wrecker, Tractor Rubber-tired Articulating Multi-terrain forklift (TRAM), and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).
To increase the value of the training conducted, U.S. Marines simulated an MTVR getting stuck on the beach, and conducted a vehicle recovery operation with the MTVR Wrecker, while the SLMC platoon ensured the beach was safe and tenable for the exercise. This allowed both the U.S. and Sri Lanka service members to work through a potential real-world issue and cooperate together to recover the asset and continue with the mission. The two forces then continued with the simulated distribution of food and water, while the SLMC integrated into USMC convoy operations throughout the day.
The final stage of the execution was the retrograde of the vehicles, gear, and personnel from the shore to the ship in similar fashion to the insert. The Marines and Sailors returned to the beach landing site, reembarked on the LCACs, and returned to the Anchorage having successfully completed the exercise.
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 13th MEU is embarked on the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and amphibious transport dock ships USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) and the Anchorage, and operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
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.