Friday, September 11, 2009

DESRON 31 Returns After Successful CARAT Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Mark Logico, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31 returned home Sept. 4 after completing a successful four-month deployment aboard USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) May 12 to Aug. 28.

Led by Capt. Richard L. Clemmons Jr., DESRON 31 commodore, the deployment focused on the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise. CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises held annually in the Southeast Asia region.

"The whole idea behind CARAT is to build and strengthen our relationships with those countries in Southeast Asia," said Clemmons. "Many people don't know, but a large percentage of the goods that the United States receives and delivers, imports and exports, go through that area. It's a very important strategic area for the United States. It's important to have good relations with those countries."

Since 1995, CARAT has provided the U.S. and six other Southeast Asian nations – the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia – the opportunity to sharpen maritime security through shared training, equipment and manpower.

More than 1,600 U.S. personnel took part in CARAT 2009. Task Group 73.5, the U.S. Navy task group for CARAT, is under the command of DESRON 31.

With DESRON 31 as the CARAT commander, the exercise involved deploying to each of the countries in a predetermined schedule of activities which typically took about a week to 10 days.

"What is most important is that the positive relationship and understanding between our armed forces which has developed these last few days through this exercise will continue to flourish well beyond today," said Col. Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Rosli, joint forces commander, Royal Brunei Armed Forces.

During the exercises, U.S. and partner nations conducted several exercises including ship movement operations; visit, board, search and seizure exercise mission, and damage control.

"I think what's important is that we build on 2009," said Clemmons. "One of the things I want to do for each country is to capture all the unique lessons and make sure we incorporate those in a tailored program for 2010."

"What I'm hoping to see in the future is in addition to the bilateral engagement between the US and the country that we might be able to do multilateral exercises where we involve more than one country with the U.S. and we go and do the exercise together," said Clemmons.