The group photo from the Force Commanders Conference
The group photo from the Force Commanders Conference

The 30 nation Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) organisation welcomed 41 senior officers to its Bahrain-based headquarters last week, as the international naval partnership hosted its 2015 Force Commanders Conference.

CMF is a professional, capable and alert naval force, conducting maritime security and counter-piracy operations in the Middle East and off the Horn and East Coast of Africa. The aim: to set the conditions for security and stability in an area consisting of 2.5 million square miles of ocean, with 6000 miles of coastline bordering 17 sovereign nations. The achievement of this goal is only possible with support from the 30 nations who are dedicated to providing an enduring presence in the region and share the desire to deny criminals and terrorists from using the seas for illegal purposes.

The 2015 Force Commanders Conference was hosted by the US Navy’s Vice Admiral John W Miller, who is Commander of CMF, as well as Commander US Naval Forces Central Command and the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The Royal Navy’s Commodore Keith Blount OBE, the Deputy Commander CMF and the UK’s Maritime Component Commander for the Middle East, chaired the meeting. Twenty seven member countries were represented, as was Qatar.

The main body of the conference was designed to bring member nations up to date with any developments in CMF and highlight areas where more support is needed. The Commanders of each Task Force also provided an update for their areas of responsibility. Commodore Brian Santarpia from the Royal Canadian Navy presented as Commander of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), the counter-terrorism and maritime security Task Force. Rear Admiral Pakorn Wanich from the Royal Thai Navy presented as Commander CTF-151, the counter-piracy Task Force. Finally, Captain Suliman Al Enazi from the Royal Saudi Naval Forces presented as Commander CTF-152, the Task Force primarily assigned to work with Gulf Cooperation Council nations to build maritime security capabilities and cooperation in the Gulf region. Commodore Blount then chaired a discussion to allow senior representatives to ask questions.

Commodore Blount said:

“The Combined Maritime Force is the most flexible and diverse naval partnership in the region, comprising 30 nations with specific maritime interests. The successes of our organisation are a credit to the nations, which have supplied ships, aircraft and staff in support of our military objectives.”

After recognising the challenges associated with the complex nature of maritime security and counter-piracy operations in CMF’s vast area of responsibility, Commodore Blount highlighted some of CMF’s 2014 achievements:

“The efforts of CTF-150 are extraordinary. We have seen operations to counter narcotics smuggling achieve a success rate which is 72% higher than last year. Captain Suliman’s Saudi Arabian team leading CTF-152 has been excellent and I thank them for their commitment to the mission. Thai command of CTF-151 has, as always, been extremely professional. There is much to do in 2015 and the continued support of our coalition will be critical.”

Through CTF-150, CTF-151 and CTF-152 operations, CMF counters piracy, illicit activity and terrorist networks in its area of responsibility. Working closely with international and regional partners to improve security, strengthen regional capabilities and, when requested, respond to environmental and humanitarian crises, CMF is unique in that no single nation built the partnership; it is strong because countries from around the world built it together recognising that no nation is so large that they can complete this mission alone, and no nation is so small that their contribution does not count.