MANAMA, Bahrain, Aug. 13, 2009 – The combined task force of international navies that counter piracy off the coast of Somalia and throughout the Gulf of Aden was returned to U.S. command at a ceremony here today.
Navy Rear Adm. Scott E. Sanders assumed command of Combined Task Force 151 in a ceremony aboard the coalition counter-piracy flagship USS Anzio while pier-side in Bahrain. Sanders became the first selective reserve admiral to command a combined task force at sea.

Sanders relieved Turkish navy Rear Adm. Caner Bener and heralded the Turkish navy’s first command of a combined task force as a success.

“Rear Admiral Bener and his staff of Turkish, U.S., Pakistani, Greek and UK sailors have made huge strides, not only in combating piracy, but also in fostering international coordination and the relationships that are crucial to the mission,” Sanders said. “The capture of 17 armed and dangerous men and their mother ship, the first pirate mother ship ever captured, demonstrated the ability of CTF 151 to effectively execute counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.”

Sanders assumed command of a CTF 151 staff made up of coalition personnel, which “has demonstrated how a staff comprised of personnel from multiple nations can form a cohesive team to tackle piracy,” he said.

The Turkish navy assumed command of CTF 151 in early May, relieving U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Michelle Howard and her staff following the successful rescue of Richard Phillips, captain of the U.S.-flagged merchant vessel Maersk Alabama, which had been seized by pirates off Somalia’s coast.

“As a result of cooperative counter-piracy operations, there has been a considerable decrease in piracy activities in the region,” Bener said. “The most effective measures we’ve seen to defeat piracy are nonkinetic and defensive in nature.”

CTF 151 was created in January to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations. It operates in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia, covering about 1.1 million square miles.

“While the ultimate solution to the problem of piracy is ashore in Somalia, the combined maritime force made the decision to focus coalition maritime efforts on security and stability at sea in order to create a lawful maritime order and deter acts of piracy on the high seas, while giving the international community time to address the long-term solution of piracy,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and Combined Maritime Forces.

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