On 27 August 2015 command of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) passed from the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force under the command of Rear Admiral Hiroshi Ito to Captain Ayhan Bay of the Turkish Navy, who will be promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral on 30 August.
The handover marked the completion of Japan’s first time in command of a multi-national task force since the Second World War, as part of Japan’s contribution to international security. Rear Admiral Ito, who has led CTF 151 since 31 May 2015, said: “It has been an honor and a privilege to Command CTF 151. The navy is not a security luxury, but a key component of national power and a symbol of state sovereignty. As such, a naval nation is required to shoulder proportional responsibility as a member of the international community, in order to play an active part in contributing to a better global security environment.”
Rear Admiral Ito will return to Japan to continue his role as Commander, Escort Flotilla 4 Japan Maritime Self Defense Force.
Vice Admiral John Miller, Commander Combined Maritime Forces, presided over the handover and noting the achievements of CTF 151 under Rear Admiral Ito’s leadership, said: “We are here to recognize the accomplishments of Combined Task Force 151 under the leadership of Rear Admiral Hiroshi Ito. They are numerous and they are significant. Admiral Ito, my friend, you and your sailors have demonstrated an enduring commitment to promoting freedom of navigation for all ships in this vital region. This commitment is underscored by the fact that this was the first time in 70 years that Japan has led an international task force. That is historic. The Combined Maritime Forces are so very proud to be part of this important significant moment in your nation’s history. Your perfect performance in command is, I am certain, a matter of great national pride – as well it should be.”
Vice Admiral Miller then highlighted Captain Bay’s career and welcomed him to the Combined Maritime Forces family.
Addressing his predecessor, Captain Bay on taking over command from Rear Admiral Ito, said: “I really would like to take the time here to extend my heartfelt appreciation for a job very well done. You have demonstrated exemplary skills to ensure the continued success of CTF 151. I wish you and your staff a safe trip back home and to your loved ones.”
This is the fourth time that Turkey has led CTF 151 and in his speech Captain Bay noted that Turkey has always supported the multi-national force and its mission. Also mentioning that Turkey’s commitment to international peace and support operations follows the principle of ‘Peace at home, peace in the world’ declared by the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He concluded his speech by saying: “Although there has been a drastic decrease in the number of attacks and hijackings by pirates since 2012, I am mindful of the fact that we cannot become complacent and must keep up the operational tempo against piracy. The units under my command will continue its counter-piracy mission with the same enthusiasm as previous commands in order to safeguard the freedom of navigation in the region.”