CARAT — Worth its weight in gold

Sailors assigned to USS Freedom (LCS 1) clear the flight deck of debris prior to launching an MH-60R helicopter for an amphibious assault exercise off the coast of Malaysia.U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson.

Sailors assigned to USS Freedom (LCS 1) clear the flight deck of debris prior to launching an MH-60R helicopter for an amphibious assault exercise off the coast of Malaysia.U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson.

While many of us are planning our summer vacations, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and the Malaysian armed forces are engaged in a joint military exercise called the Cooperation Afloat Readiness Training, or CARAT, in the South China Sea. The ten day event is about collaboration and communication – and the MH-60R Romeo helicopter gets to play a featured role.

The Romeo arrived aboard the littoral combat ship USS Freedom, who is participating in CARAT for the first time. Freedom and the USS Tortuga conducted an amphibious assault exercise, with the MH-60R providing aerial support to sailors acting as safety observers in an 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB). The MH-60R aircraft participating in CARAT is assigned to the Battle Cats of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 73, who are deployed aboard Freedom as part of the “Gold’ crew of 91 sailors. A U.S. Navy article quoted HSM 73 pilot Lt. Mike Roselli, who participated in the event. “It was a good proof of concept for LCS and the squadron of the capabilities we could provide to the mission. The Romeo was able to provide maritime support to the amphibious force. We could, if needed, provide Hellfire [missiles], torpedoes or a Search and Rescue swimmer.”

The U.S. Navy describes CARAT as “a series of bilateral naval exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.”  Continuing through June 23, CARAT Malaysia 2013 consists of ten days of shore-based and at-sea training events designed to address shared maritime security concerns, develop relationships, and enhance interoperability among participating forces. Participation in the CARAT exercise series is among the key milestones during Freedom’s maiden rotational deployment to Southeast Asia.

For updates and photos, “Like” the CARAT page on Facebook.