The U.S. and Cambodian navies will conduct joint military exercises next week, a Cambodian official confirmed October 26.
According to Mey Dina, commander and chief of staff of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ Navy, the two countries would launch the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercise on November 2.
The Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Cambodia exercise, now in its seventh iteration, is designed to address shared maritime security priorities, develop relationships, and enhance cooperation between the two navies. It is part of a series of bilateral naval exercises conducted by the U.S. Navy with partners now involving nine countries in South and Southeast Asia – Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste (See: “US Eyes Expanded Military Exercises with ASEAN Navies”).
The Royal Cambodian Navy (RCN) is one of the newer CARAT partners in the exercise series, which began back in 1995.
This year, the drill, Dina said, would include live-fire exercises using Cambodian vessels and cover counterterrorism, hostage rescue, natural disaster response, medical treatment and ship maintenance. It would also involve crew from the U.S. naval ship Millinocket, which he said was due to dock at Sihanoukville on October 30.
Sihanoukville houses the Royal Cambodian Ream Navy Base.
“We have asked the fishermen and local people to avoid entering the exercise area in order to avoid any danger,” Dina said according to the Phnom Penh Post. “The exercise is to help with ideas and experiences for improving the bilateral cooperation of the two countries.”
CARAT exercises usually grow in complexity with a few firsts each year. In Cambodia’s case, CARAT Cambodia began with a basic port visit and training events in 2010. As I have written previously, last year’s exercise featured five days of shore-based and at-sea training events as well as professional symposia to share best practices in various areas including military law, military medicine, and aviation search and rescue (See: “US, Cambodia Navies Launch Joint Military Exercise”).
It also saw the U.S. littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Forth Worth take part for the first time.
CARAT Cambodia will begin just weeks after the USS Germantown, a Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship, along with the earmarked Combat Logistics Battalion of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Sihanoukville after completing an exercise in the Philippines.
Commander Severn Stevens, commanding officer of Germantown, had said that he welcomed the opportunity to visit Cambodia since U.S. Navy vessels do not often do so.