PUERTO PRINCESA, Republic of the Philippines –
The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) wrapped up its first-ever participation in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines following a June 26 closing ceremony held at Naval Station Apolinario Jalandoon, Puerto Princesa, Republic of the Philippines.
Now in its 21st year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been an integral part of CARAT since the annual exercise series began in 1995.
The ceremony took place the day after Fort Worth and Philippine navy ships, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF 15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF 16), returned from two days of joint exercises in the Sulu Sea.
This year's exercise with the AFP focused on combined operations at sea and maritime domain awareness. Fort Worth Sailors participated in training events covering several naval competencies, including tactical combat casualty care (TCCC), visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), gunnery exercises, maneuvering in formation, air defense exercises and a search and rescue drill.
"I had the opportunity to teach first aid to multiple rates," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Christina Demos, assigned to Fort Worth. "We talked about how we accomplish day-to-day tasks here in our medical, and I learned how they run the medical department on their own ships."
Also during the at-sea phase, Philippine Navy helicopters conducted deck landing qualifications using Fort Worth's flight deck.
"We learned a lot watching the other pilots operate in their respective maritime environment," said Lt. Michael Spencer, assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35, Detachment 3, currently embarked on Fort Worth.
Following CARAT Philippines, Fort Worth will stop to refuel in Subic Bay, Philippines, before conducting routine patrols in the South China Sea. The ship is scheduled to participate in CARAT Singapore, which kicks-off mid-July.
"If CARAT Singapore is anything like the CARAT we just finished in the Philippines, then it should be a lot of fun," said Gunner's Mate 1st Class Joshua Rhine, assigned to Surface Warfare Mission Package, Detachment 4, currently embarked aboard Fort Worth. "Not only did we learn a lot about how the Philippine navy operates, but we were also able to experience a bit of the Philippine culture."
CARAT is the U.S. Navy's premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia. The bilateral and multilateral exercises provide a regional venue to develop strong maritime partnerships that contribute to the greater peace and stability of the region. Additional bilateral phases of CARAT 2015 will occur through November 2015 with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.