JAVA SEA, Indonesia - As Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Indonesia drew to a close, the Marines aboard USS GERMANTOWN break down their rifles, scrub their nylon tents, and perform maintenance on the vehicles that took them to the Indonesian shores. While living ashore for five days, they participated in various exercises with their Indonesian counterparts, building trust and increasing interoperability between the Marines of both countries.
“One thing we have to be proud of is how well we came together to work with the Indonesian forces,” said Maj. Ben Reid, commander of the Marines’ landing force during CARAT Indonesia. “We had different units without previous relationships and had only a month and a half to plan together before CARAT Indonesia. By the end, we are all one team and our ability to adapt and win really showed here.”
During CARAT Indonesia, American forces worked with their Indonesian counterparts to enhance amphibious warfare tactics, train on field maneuvers, simulate humanitarian relief scenarios, and share field survival skills. The partner nations worked together on topics including beach surveys, water desalination, and even which local species are safe for human consumption in survival situations.
“We grilled snakes and water lizard,” said Lance Cpl. Ricky Baird. “It was a once in a lifetime experience. We got to show them we are on the same team and that we are open to their customs.”
Several beach landings took place during the exercise as well. A few miles off the beach, the Indonesian amphibious ship KRI MAKASSAR, launched their landing craft while the U.S. amphibious ship, USS GERMANTOWN, launched their landing force as well. It took detailed coordination between multiple units to coordinate such a complex bilateral beach assault.
“We put all these units together and completed the most complex military evolution there is: A strike from the sea,” said Reid.
When they weren’t actively training, Marines from both sides could interact together at the beach camp which offered a good opportunity for the Marines to rest themselves. They could relax in the shade as they cleaned their weapons, careful of the monkeys creeping up to snatch rations of sugar cane stalks and other unattended snacks.
One cannot overlook the hurdles that were overcome in order to make this complex bilateral event such a success. One such challenge was the cultural and language barrier, making planning and execution a learning experience.
“In some cases, the Indonesians enter the military and have to learn a common language before they can even train together,” said Reid. “These guys come from all over, from different islands and different regions, and to see how they can learn to work together so well, you really start to appreciate their discipline.”
The professional partnerships developed and tearing down cultural barriers was a common theme throughout the entire event. It could be easily seen in every Marine who participated.
“The well-led KORMAR (Korps Marinar, Indonesia’s joint military forces) set the tone for hospitality, enthusiasm and motivation,” said 1st Sgt. Jose Romero, the senior enlisted leader for the Marines embarked aboard Germantown. “It was an honor to partner with the KORMAR and to take part in a cultural exchange with them.”
As CARAT Indonesia drew to a close, both the Indonesian and American Marines took away new skills and knowledge to improve future bilateral missions such as humanitarian aid and disaster relief, the most frequently exercised mission in this typhoon-prone region.
“This operation, which involved 600 Marines and Sailors and even more Indonesian forces, was a success because of the understanding and partnership amongst all the teams involved,” said Romero. “I believe all the previous CARATs established a solid foundation. The high caliber participants as well as the professional and disciplined Indonesian forces made this a win for all teams.”