Okinawa, Japan - U.S. Sailors and Marines with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment disembarked the forward-deployed Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) in Okinawa, Japan, after several training engagements in the region, July 4.

The Marines returned to Okinawa after participating in exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) with Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand.

CARAT is a nine-country, bilateral exercise series between the United States and Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Timor-Leste. The CARAT series remains ongoing in the region.

"CARAT was [a] very new experience for a vast majority of the landing force and there was a lot of enthusiasm because of what we were able to accomplish out there with our Pacific partners," said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Andrew Hornfeck, company commander of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

CARAT allowed U.S. service members to show partner nations the amphibious capabilities the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps possess when working together, while also building relationships in the Pacific.

The Marines, being ambassadors of the United States in the places they visited, took joy in teaching and learning from their Pacific counterparts.

"It was a good experience," said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachary Wiggins, an automatic rifleman with Easy Company. "I would definitely come back on the next deployment if I get the opportunity."