They came, they built, they drilled and exercised with six foreign nations, and now the flotilla that spent the summer conducting Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training is on its way home.

The five ships and about 1,400 U.S participants wrapped up the sixth and final phase of the CARAT exercise this week in the Philippines, according to the Pacific Command.

Along with training to enhance regional cooperation, the group built schools, visited orphans and offered medical care in the countries it visited.

CARAT, which began as an amalgamation of several smaller exercises in 1995, has grown to include a range of training: ship maneuvers, salvage operations, amphibious landings, drug interdiction and counterterrorism exercises.

It’s sequential and bilateral, so U.S. forces visit each country one by one and customize the participants and training to that nation’s circumstances. U.S. Army veterinarians, for example, participated in the Indonesian phase, helping villagers there care for their animals. In addition to the ships, more than a dozen units participated, according to CARAT officials.

This year’s exercise, which began May in Singapore, made stops in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

“We live in a world where multinational responses to conflicts and humanitarian crises — like the Leyte mudslide earlier this year — are now routine,” said Capt. Al Collins, who led the CARAT task group. “Thanks to CARAT, we have been able to answer that call through years of bilateral training, which have improved our maritime surveillance, information sharing and communication.”

Participants included the USS Tortuga from Sasebo, Japan; Coast Guard cutter USS Sherman from Alameda, Calif.; and the USS Hopper, USS Crommelin and USS Salvor from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now