PORT HERA NAVY BASE, Timor-Leste --- The U.S. Navy and Timorese Navy commenced the first Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Timor-Leste exercise Jan. 25, with an opening ceremony held at Port Hera Navy Base.
U.S. Ambassador Judith Fergin and Col. Falur Rate Laek, Chief of Staff of the Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL), officiated the ceremony.
Fergin reaffirmed U.S. support for Timor-Leste's efforts to consolidate peace and security gains, noting the exercise enhanced mutual cooperation.
"The contributions that the participants in Exercise CARAT will make this week will strengthen the foundations of cooperation between our two countries for years to come," said Fergin.
In his opening remarks, Laek noted that the upcoming exercises build a stronger relationship between Timor-Leste and U.S. naval forces.
"The partnership between the Timor-Leste and U.S. Navy and Marines is not a new one. These Naval and Marine exercises between Timor-Leste and United States help to will ensure peace, build experience, and strengthen the permanent partnership between Timor-Leste and the United States," said Laek.
Over the next four days, Marines from U.S. Fleet Antiterrorism and Security Team (FAST), Pacific, will conduct hands on skill transfers and combat fundamentals with their F-FDTL counterparts.
In addition to FAST, Coast Guardsmen from the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Training Branch homeported in Yorktown, Va., and Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5, homported in Port Hueneme, Calif., will conduct subject matter expert exchanges with the F-FDTL Navy on several F-FDTL ships. Coast Guardsmen will hold training on engineering, navigation, seamanship and damage control, while the Seabees will conduct medical, mechanical and electrical classroom courses.
Representing U.S. forces, Lt. Cmdr. Jennie Stone, CARAT Liaison Officer, Logistics Group Western Pacific, noted these exchanges allowed maritime professionals to share best practices and build partnerships.
"Our partners in the F-FDTL are skilled professionals, and this exercise helps increase interoperability between our forces, while at the same time building personal and professional relationships. This ongoing development becomes critical should future events call for our forces to work side-by-side," said Stone.
CARAT is a series of annual, bilateral maritime exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste.