NAVAL BASE GUAM – Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians from Task Force 75 and troop commanders from the Royal Brunei Land Force participated in a real-time, virtual EOD subject matter expert exchange (SMEE), Oct. 6, as part of the 26th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) maritime exercise.
The exchange was conducted virtually to mitigate COVID-19 risks, but still allowed both countries to share presentations on their capabilities and gear while exchanging questions on common terrains, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN) kits, improvised explosive devices and their remotely operated vehicles.
“Today we conducted a partner exchange with Brunei Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit and gave each other a background on our history and what our communities do,” said Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class John Dixon, the platoon’s leading petty officer. “We then got more specific on each other’s procedures for improvised explosive devices and chemical warfare.”
This SMEE allowed both units to learn from each other’s experiences while allowing for greater interoperability between the forces.
“The reason these interactions are important is that it’s good to have allies around the world, because you never where you’ll be operating at,” said Dixon. “The more we reach out with these interactions, the more allies we have in the fight, as well as better knowledge and expertise we gain from working with each other.”
This interaction, along with all events planned throughout CARAT Brunei, put emphasis on social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures. The maritime exercise is the Navy’s oldest and longest continually running regional exercise in South and Southeast Asia, which strengthens partnerships between regional navies and enhances maritime security cooperation and interoperability throughout the Indo-Pacific.
Lt. William Huntsman, the platoon’s commander, said though it’s hard to replace face-to-face and hands-on interactions, there is value still be gained from doing a virtual SMEE.
“The United States military is not going to slow down to coronavirus because we still have work to do,” said Huntsman. “Whether it’s virtual or face-to-face, our community is ready to get the most out of that opportunity. We’re adapting and shifting the way things are to insure and support our allies in the region.”
U.S. assets participating in CARAT Brunei include staff from Commander Task Force (CTF) 72, CTF 73, CTF 75, CTF 76, DESRON 7, EOD Mobile Unit Five, USMC III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), Special Operations Command Pacific, the U.S. 7th Fleet Band and a P-8 Poseidon aircraft. Afloat units include the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3).
CTF 75 is 7th Fleet’s primary expeditionary task force and is responsible for the planning and execution of maritime security operations, explosive ordnance disposal, diving, engineering and construction, and underwater construction. It additionally provides direct support to diving and salvage operations and expeditionary intelligence throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build maritime partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.