Happy birthday America!
It’s the Fourth of July.
Since last Tuesday, Puerto Princesa has been hosting sailors on shore leave.
They stand out when they walk because they’re so large. Imagine men whose average height seems to be 6-feet. Their women are not as tall but they’re all fit although I saw some black mommas in the making.
I was listening to one who was trying to learn more about the locals. He said he felt freakish for being so large (he stood about 6 feet-5-inches). Jesus, Ian, and me were chatting when the sailor, let’s call him Large, joined us. Ian is Scottish and the sailor (25 years old perhaps) said that he’s part-Scottish. It turns out that Ian had been to the bay where the sailor’s grandfather came from.
The U.S. Navy’s here for CARAT exercises.
Three U.S. Navy ships arrive in Puerto Princesa’s port Tuesday to launch the 17th Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines.
The guided missile destroyers USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Howard (DDG 83) and the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) are the U.S. Navy’s centerpieces for the exercise, which features 11 days of training exchanges with the Philippine Navy, both ashore and at sea.
This year marks the second time in recent years that CARAT has been held in Palawan. The exercise was held in Puerto Princesa in 2008; in 2009, the exercise was held in Cebu, and in 2010 at Subic Bay.
A popular hangout in Puerto for foreigners–resident and tourist–is Jess Billiards.
Approximately 800 U.S. Navy personnel are participating in CARAT Philippines 2011. In addition to the three ships, other participants include U.S. Navy Seabees, A U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST), U.S. Navy Mobile Security Squadron, U.S. Navy Riverine Forces, Medical Support personnel, and P-3C Orion and SH-60 Seahawk aircraft.
That’s Ian and his girlfriend.
CARAT was created in 1995 when U.S. military planners consolidated several annual regional exercises into a single deployment. The conversion simplified both planning and logistics for the exercises. The purpose of CARAT is to promote cooperation and interoperability between U.S. forces and those of participating nations in the areas of operational planning, command and control as well as tactics.
Ashore training includes such specialties as Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) exercises; diver training; salvage operations; joint medical, dental and civic action projects, and aircrew familiarization exchanges. Additionally, there will be symposia on operations planning, search and rescue practices, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, interagency cooperation and public affairs.
The at-sea phase of CARAT focuses on developing maritime security capabilities in areas such as maritime interdiction, information sharing, combined operations at sea, patrol operations and gunnery exercises, plus anti-piracy and anti-smuggling exercises.
That’s Jess, above, after whom Jess Billiards was named. Jess is French-Canadian, originally from Quebec.
Three of the sailors received their promotions so there were three real reasons to have a good time.