BANDAR SERI BAGWAN, Brunei - Patrol Squadron (VP) 40 teamed up with USS Dewey (DDG 105) and USS Pinckney (DDG 91) in support of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei 2011, a week-long exercise designed to strengthen relationships and enhance force readiness for both nations.
Combat Aircrew (CAC) 4, led by Patrol Plane Commander/Mission Commander Lt. Lane Drummond and Tactical Coordinator Lt. Dan Hansen, worked with a 12-person maintenance detachment to ensure air support for the duration of the exercise.
This year’s CARAT focused on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and Search and Rescue (SAR) procedures, as well as Brunei’s recent decision to integrate female officers into shipboard positions. Sailors from VP-40 were eager to discuss their experiences and learn about Brunei, forming friendships and growing as individuals along the way.
“I left Brunei with a sense of pride as a woman serving in the military,” said Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Rachel Fontaine. “The women I met from the Brunei Navy reminded me of the obstacles a woman faces in a very male dominant military. It was uplifting to hear their stories of hardships as Muslim women and how they’ve proven they’re strong and capable enough to serve their country.”
Following opening ceremonies on September 29, CARAT participants spent two days learning about each other’s platforms and the challenges of MDA and SAR. At the MDA Working Group, VP-40 detachment officer-in-charge Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Fitchett fielded questions from members of the Royal Brunei Air Force and the Chief of the Royal Brunei Navy.
“It was a great opportunity to share lessons VP-40 has learned over the last four months since having been deployed to the 7th Fleet AOR,” said Fitchett. “Brunei Air Force personnel were very receptive to what we had to share and thought it would be possible to incorporate into their training program.”
During the SAR symposium, the HSL-71 Raptors presented helicopter rescue equipment while VP-40 explained maritime search procedures and all the factors to be considered when developing a rescue plan. U.S. and Brunei aircrew worked together to conduct real-time calculations of survivor search location based on aerospace trajectory, wind and current drift, and varying search platforms.
Eager to use the skills they learned in the classroom, CAC-4 and Brunei’s Number Five Squadron took to the skies for joint MDA flights through Brunei’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The aircrews reviewed procedures for locating and identifying surface traffic transiting through Bruneian waters.
CAC-4 crewmembers were also given the opportunity to fly aboard the sleek CN-235 as the Royal Brunei Air Force demonstrated parajumper dropping procedures and successfully located the simulated survivors lost at sea during the SAREX with the Royal Brunei Navy.
“It was an awesome experience,” said Naval Aircrewman 1st Class Scott Wollenhaupt. “You realize how far we have come as nations working together with common goals. This whole experience will be with us all forever.”
Local armed forces and civilian contractors provided professional and friendly support for all of CARAT Brunei’s logistical, air and maintenance operations. Operating out of Rimba Air Base at Brunei’s International Airport proved fruitful as aircraft maintenance was executed flawlessly. “Performing maintenance away from our home field can be difficult because it involves parts that are challenging to get and some improvising for tools,” said Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Richard Carrillo. “At Rimba, we were given access to the best electronics shop I’ve seen in a while, and everyone was very helpful with everything we needed.”
During their stay in Brunei, VP-40’s aircrew and maintainers took advantage of every opportunity to spend time with new friends. They enjoyed traditional cuisine, attended performances by the 7th Fleet and Royal Brunei Bands, and were happy to compete on the soccer field and volleyball court for an All Hands sports day at beautiful Muara Beach.
Following closing ceremonies on October 7, the Fighting Marlins presented the Squadron Five Dolphins with a plaque to commemorate their time together. They were pleased to accept a traditional Bruneian knife carved by local craftsmen, a token of a friendship only likely to deepen for years to come.