MINA SALMAN, Bahrain (NNS) -- Pakistani Rear Adm. Shahid Iqbal relieved Royal Netherlands Navy Commodore Hank Ort as commander of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 during a change of command ceremony aboard HNLMS De Zeven Provincien (F802) at the port of Mina Salman, Bahrain, April 24.
The change of leadership marks the first time an officer of a regional nation has assumed command of any of the three coalition task forces that comprise the Combined Maritime Force.
"I, my team, and the Pakistan navy feel elated and honored for being entrusted with this important, professional responsibility," said Iqbal during his acceptance speech. "Terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon which has become an enormous challenge for the international community. Given the transcending nature of terrorism and its magnitude, it's not within the capacity of one single country or force to address this issue.
"[We require] a joint approach to address this menace," he said. "Command of Task Force 150 is a challenge, [but] I and my team are confident that with the support of our coalition and regional partners...this challenge can be converted into opportunities for the benefit of all."
Vice Adm. Mohammad Haroon Hi, Pakistan navy's vice chief of naval staff, said the event marked an historic day for Pakistan and its navy.
"Today we're the most experienced navy in the region, and have the honor of being the only non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) country to be entrusted with the responsibility of commanding a coalition comprising mostly of NATO countries," he said.
CTF 150, established near the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, is currently comprised of naval forces from France, Germany, Italy, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The task force conducts maritime security operations (MSO) in the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
MSO sets the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
Ort, who commanded CTF 150 since mid-December, stressed the importance of the task force.
"Our mission contributes to regional maritime security by making sure that terrorists cannot use our area either as a venue or an enabler," he said. "In doing so, the military contribution is a key enabler for structural work in the political and economical arena," said Ort.
Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, the Combined Forces Maritime Component commander, emphasized the value of having a regional nation lead this task force.
"The international community shares a common goal against a common enemy - an enemy of peace, an enemy of stability, an enemy of prosperity," said Walsh. "To succeed in this critical important mission over the expanse of the ocean, we need an approach to leadership that develops one team to blend the individual contribution from an international array of unique maritime capabilities."
Speaking directly to Iqbal, Walsh said, "Pakistan has played a strategic role and partnership in CTF 150. We look forward to your insight, judgment, and leadership in Maritime Security Operations in the coming months. Teach and guide our team well with an approach that is collective in character, shared in responsibility and postured for the future."
Iqbal said he was looking forward to the challenges of commanding the task force.
"I'm sure during my tenure our sincere efforts will add positively in achieving aims and objectives of the task force," he said, "and will bring more stability and peace in the region."
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