CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — More than 400 Marines and sailors are back on Okinawa after 10 weeks traveling Southeast Asia for exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training.

During the deployment, the Marines and sailors took part in the annual series of training exercises with military personnel from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries, including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

The exercises, which started June 6 and officially closed Aug. 9, aim to enhance the ability of the sea services of the United States and its allies to work together, according to Marine officials.

“We were able to improve our readiness and training throughout this deployment,” said Lt. Col. Timothy T. Armstrong, the exercise’s landing force commander.

Armstrong said the exercise showed Marines and sailors the effectiveness of sea-based expeditionary operations. During the exercises, the Marines refined their ground combat skills and focused on maintaining vehicles and equipment in various environments.

The exercise’s planning process, said Rear Adm. Jeff Cassias — commander of the CARAT task force — also provides invaluable experience. He said U.S. personnel gained insight into the thought processes of the exercise partners.

The relationships with their counterparts built respect and understanding for each service’s similarities and differences, he said.

“During the conduct of exercise events, participants are exposed to both the strengths and limitations of their partners,” Cassias said. “Should we be called upon to work together in the future, this understanding of capabilities will provide us with a baseline for coordinating a plan of action that maximizes those strengths and minimizes the impact of limitations.”

Besides training to operate in the different environments, the landing force members held medical and dental civic action projects and shared their knowledge.

“This deployment was different because we went out with a mission to teach and train, not just operate with the host nations,” said Gunnery Sgt. John F. Singleton, operations chief for the landing force.

“Most deployments I have been on there is an attitude that we are Americans and everyone loves us and we can do no wrong,” he said. “Some servicemembers have a tendency to treat foreign soldiers as if they are incapable of conducting operations. This deployment was driven by the individual Marine and sailor interacting with the members of our host countries’ military.”

Armstrong also hoped the training in the Southeast Asian countries cleared up any misconceptions people had about the United States.

“Our enemies would like to get the message out that says America is conducting a war against Muslims,” he said. “I like to think that by being able to exercise in countries in this region, some even predominantly Muslim, we were able to dispel this notion.

“My hope is that our friends and allies in this region saw that we were a professional force and our efforts with the countries we visited will mean further cooperation in the global war on terrorism,” he said.

Participating ships

USS Vincennesfrom Yokosuka Naval Base, a guided-missile cruiserUSS Harpers Ferryfrom Sasebo Naval Base, a dock landing shipUSS Safeguardfrom Sasebo Naval base, a rescue and salvage shipUSS Curtsfrom San Diego, a guided-missile frigate

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