Rear Adm. Tom Carney, Commander Logistic Force Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC), along with Capt. Jim Hruska, Commander Military Sealift Command Far East (COM MSCFE), spoke with the Defense Media Network’s Capt. Edward Lundquist, USN (Ret.) about the roles they play in keeping the U.S. Navy fixed, fueled, and supplied.
Edward Lundquist: Southeast Asia is an important region for the United States and the U.S. Navy and our partnerships. I wanted to get your thoughts on the importance of the region and the importance of being able to support the fleet in whatever it needs to do.
Rear Adm. Tom Carney: Regionally, Southeast Asia is tremendously important. A day doesn’t go by without a news article about the economic growth of Southeast Asia and its integral relationship to global growth and prosperity. COMLOG WESTPAC has been in Singapore since the command relocated here from the Philippines in 1991. Logistics is what we’re all about. We have a fleet of Military Sealift Command [MSC] ships that provide fuel, ammunition, spare parts, supplies, to all U.S. Navy ships from the Western Pacific to the Indian Ocean. All of the MSC ships and logistics staff operate from here and a few satellite locations, but this is the center of Navy logistics operations in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.
The U.S. Navy has had a presence in Southeast Asia for more than a 150 years. I often point to a copy of the deck log on my wall from when USS Vincennes dropped anchor here in 1835 – the U.S. Navy has been in the Western Pacific ever since. Since the end of World War II, we’ve had a significant presence not only in Northeast Asia, but also in Southeast Asia and throughout the Western Pacific.
As far as the ships out here, MSC’s a little different than your car. With your car you drive your car to the gas station. With MSC, we drive the gas station to the customer. To make that work, we have our favorite locations and, based on historical needs and the historical operations of the U.S. Navy, we can preposition our ships in those areas, and then we move the ships as needed to meet the needs of the customer.
With the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific under way, examples of U.S. Navy forward presence and support to the broader national strategy are more visible than before. We are continuing exercises and engagements that have taken place annually in some cases for 20 and 30 years — CARAT, Cobra Gold, Balikatan, PHIBLEX, SEACAT — exercises that have increased in complexity and in importance with different partner nations in Southeast Asia to promote regional maritime security and stability.
What will change for COMLOG WESTPAC as a result of the rebalance?
Our premier exercise, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), has expanded in the last few years with more partner nations participating, and it has increased in complexity. CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises with nine different countries in the region, and we try to make each one a little more complex and a little more challenging every year, as well as tailoring them to the needs, requirements and requests of each partner nation. The series ranges in complexity from high end anti-air warfare and anti-submarine warfare scenarios to low end medical, HADR, diving and salvage, and military law subject-matter expert exchanges, and many others in between.
Is it like RIMPAC, but in Southeast Asia?
RIMPAC is a significantly bigger exercise with a number of different countries participating together over a five- or six-week period in Hawaii. CARAT involves nine different bilateral exercises with nine different countries that occur throughout the year, and works to match available resources with each country’s exercise requirements.
So what are some of the big accomplishments in helping to manage the CARAT process?
Over the course of several years we’ve seen participating navies expand their capabilities, enhance their planning processes and conduct more complex exercises. CARAT participants show up on time, knowing the schedule and ready to go. These navies are increasingly professional maritime forces that are also buying more complex hardware, and developing significantly more capable navies. These results are certainly not uniquely because of our engagement, but we do provide assistance through security cooperation exercises and exchanges.