Rear Admiral Pakorn Wanich of the Royal Thai Navy has assumed command of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter-piracy operations from Commodore Tony Millar, MNZM, Royal New Zealand Navy, at a ceremony in Bahrain on 25 November 2014. The ceremony marked Thailand’s second command of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151).
Commodore Millar, who has led CTF-151 since 28 August 2014, said:
“My team and I have mixed feelings at the end of our time in command of CTF-151. On one hand, we are very much looking forward to returning to home to our families and friends safe in the knowledge that we have made a positive difference in this important and dynamic region. However, we will be sad to leave the dedicated professionals at CMF who we have come to know as both colleagues and friends.”
Looking back on the achievements of the team, he added:
“I am delighted that this Kiwi command of CTF-151, supported by our Dutch, Japanese and Singaporean officers, has been a success. There have been no successful pirate attacks in the last four months thanks, in no small part, to the men and women involved in CTF-151’s mission, from my headquarters team in Bahrain to the crews of the 12 ships and three Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft that we have worked with over the last four months. I also want to pay tribute to our colleagues in NATO, the European Union Naval Force and the other independent deployers, with whom we are glad to share our success.
In closing he said that the threat had not gone away:
“There have been dozens of reports of suspicious behaviour which could easily have become pirate attacks, but our ships and aircraft were ‘on the beat’ to deter and defeat aggressors. We must not take our eye off the ball and allow these criminals to reassert themselves. Piracy remains a human tragedy. We would be failing the thirty hostages who are still illegally imprisoned following acts of piracy if we forgot that.”
Vice Admiral John W Miller, the CMF Commander, presided over the handover. He noted the achievements of CTF-151 under Commodore Millar’s leadership and said:
“The New Zealand team have contributed to the continued success of the Combined Maritime Forces through aggressive improvements to communications and maritime engagements, and the tasking and guidance for approach-and-assist visits. They also continued the work of their Korean predecessors by expanding engagements with independent deployers. All of this was accomplished with a staff of only 15.”
Vice Admiral Miller also noted he was very much looking forward to working with Rear Admiral Wanich, the incoming Commander of CTF-151. Greeting him with a formal Thai welcome, he said:
“Sawatee Krap, Admiral Wanich. We welcome you, your wife and your team to our Combined Task Force family and to Bahrain.”
Rear Admiral Wanich thanked Commodore Millar for all of his efforts in providing a seamless and orderly transition and noted how important the work of CTF-151 is in protecting maritime trade and freedom of movement for seafaring nations:
“I would like to thank CMF for the warm welcome and support since our arrival. I would also like to thank the New Zealand team for the excellent handover.”
“CTF-151 under Thai leadership will follow a suitable course and speed to maintain its efficiency. We will do our best to cooperate with all the concerned units to facilitate and shape the environment for counter-piracy operations and to promote the safety and security of shipping in the area of operations.”
To conclude the event, the outgoing CTF-151 staff performed a Haka, a traditional Māori challenge used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. However, this was a Haka with a twist, as it was the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Haka. Commodore Millar explained why it was appropriate to include this in the proceedings:
“The Haka is known the world over as a cry to war and challenge to our enemies but it is also traditionally a means to respect to warriors and chieftains, or Rangatira. We performed a Haka when we assumed command of CTF-151 and today repeated that honour because the respect we have developed for our international colleagues and friends has only grown since we arrived. We wish CMF every continued success and hope to contribute to this important mission again in the future.”