Senior leadership meet for a post-deployment brief of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2009. 
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U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Underscores CARAT Engagement with Critical Partners

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. John M. Bird visited the staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31 Sept. 24 to receive the post-deployment brief of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise 2009.

Commander, Logistics Group, Western Pacific Rear Adm. Nora W. Tyson and Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Rear Adm. Dixon R. Smith also attended the brief.

"I think CARAT 2009 was immensely successful," said Bird. "Not only did it achieve all the goals we set out to, but also opened our eyes for many more opportunities."

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.

"The engagement with critical maritime partners was absolutely extraordinary," said Bird.

Bird believes that each and every country the U.S. Navy engaged with benefited from the exercise, as did the U.S. Navy itself.

CARAT is an annual series of bilateral military exercises to improve military readiness and interoperability with each CARAT partner in a variety of mission areas of mutual benefit. Combined community service activities took place in each phase, as did medical, dental and engineering civic action projects in some phases.

"CARAT demonstrates many of the core capabilities articulated in the maritime strategy," said Bird. "These include humanitarian assistance and disaster response, forward presence and maritime security. CARAT allows us not only to train to those capabilities ourselves, but also to train and partner with other countries in support of those capabilities."

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

The CARAT task group, under the leadership of DESRON 31 was made up of the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), guided missile destroyers USS Chafee (DDG 90), USS Russell (DDG 59), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), guided missile frigate USS Crommelin (FFG 37), and the rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50).

"I'm pleased with the great work of everybody involved with CARAT," said Bird. "It was an overwhelming success. I thank the Sailors and Marines on the deck plates as well as the chiefs and supervisors who helped plan this."

Bird said that he saw many opportunities to make CARAT better and hopes to see it expand to other countries in the future.

"2009 is the benchmark for being efficient and effective as we look back to leverage the CARAT concept to other countries," said Bird. "That's what we're going to start to do in 2010, 11 and 12 as we go forward. The future for CARAT is bright."

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