Trust, commitment back Brunei, US security cooperation, say military leaders

Aziz Idris

The Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) and the United States Navy (USN) has built “trust and commitment” after 25 years of bilateral exercise through the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT).

This was highlighted by Joint Force Commander of the RBAF Brigadier General (U) Dato Seri Pahlawan Mohammad Sharif bin Dato Paduka Haji Ibrahim and Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific, Task Force 73, Singapore Area Coordinator of the USN Rear Admiral Murray Joe “JT” Tynch, who oversees the US Navy’s security cooperation in Southeast Asia during the sidelines of the opening ceremony to officiate the annual exercise yesterday.

Both military leaders agreed that the CARAT exercise has evolved in complexity throughout the years and enable the alliance to refined operations and tactics in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges.

“The relationship between RBAF and USN has developed year-on-year since it was first introduced in 1995,” said Brigadier General (U) Dato Seri Pahlawan Mohammad Sharif, who also participated during the first CARAT exercise.

He believes that the level of trust and cooperation gained are the main “trading values” which has benefitted the RBAF in many ways.

The commander also stressed that the key takeaways from the joint exercise is not so much on military equipment or assets but the vast experience shared by personnel and crew involved.

“Although the vessels and aircraft have changed, the role of the crew involved is what brings value to this exercise,” he added.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Tynch, who is on his third visit to the Sultanate also shared the same sentiment.

Joint Force Commander, Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Brigadier General (U) Dato Seri Pahlawan Mohammad Sharif bin Dato Paduka Haji Ibrahim, Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific, Task Force 73, Singapore Area Coordinator of the USN Rear Admiral Murray Joe ‘JT’ Tynch, US Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Matthew J Matthews and officials in a group photo. PHOTOS: AZIZ IDRIS

He said, “In a time of crisis, we can surge shipments or aircraft, but what we can’t surge is trust and we (will) continue to develop the trust between the two armed forces and the two countries.

“These 25 years of commitment builds greater maritime security, the strength of our navy-to-navy bonds, and the strength of our shared belief in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.

He also believes that the young officers involved during this year CARAT will continue working together for another 25 years for the 50th CARAT exercise.

The 25th CARAT officially kicked-off yesterday and will end on October 31.

It was officiated by Brigadier General (U) Dato Seri Pahlawan Mohammad Sharif in his capacity as the guest of honour during a ceremony at Nakhoda Hall, Naval Training Centre (NTC) in Muara Naval Base.

CARAT 2019 is of particular significance as it marks the 25th year that the RBAF and USN are co-chairing the exercise together.

In the run-up for the exercise, two planning conferences were held – the Initial Planning Conference in June 2019 and the Final Planning Conference in August 2019 –in Brunei.

Prior to the opening ceremony, several activities had been conducted which included a land phase, a medical symposium, and force protection training. CARAT 2019 will also comprise a legal symposium, a women’s interaction programme, senior enlisted engagement, a harbour phase, and a sea phase.

US Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Matthew J Matthews and participants from involved units from both countries were present.

This year’s CARAT exercise will see participation from the Royal Brunei Land Force (RBLF), Royal Brunei Navy (RBN), Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF), the Military Police, Judge Advocate General’s Office, RBAF Medical Services, the RBAF Band, and Public Relations Unit.

Other government agencies including the Royal Brunei Police Force, Maritime Port Authority of Brunei Darussalam, Fisheries Department, Narcotics Control Bureau, Attorney General’s Chambers, Emergency Medical Ambulance Services (EMAS) and Universiti Brunei Darussalam are also participating.

The annual CARAT exercise is designed to enhance interoperability, professionalism and proficiency of both armed forces and other participating agencies in addressing current and future threats of mutual concern.

Rear Admiral Tynch paid a courtesy call on Commander of the RBAF Major General Pengiran Dato Paduka Seri Aminan bin Pengiran Haji Mahmud.

Both sides commended the close military ties between the RBAF and USN. The RBAF Commander also extended his appreciation for the continuous support from the US Navy and hoped to explore more interactions in the future.