Rear Admiral Sulieman Al Faqeeh of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces has formally handed-over command of Combined Maritime Forces’ (CMF) Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 to Commodore Dan Charlebois of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), in a special ceremony held at the US Navy’s NAVCENT headquarters in Bahrain, Jan. 27, 2021.

This concludes Saudi Arabia’s second command of CTF-150, after taking over from the French Marine Nationale in August 2020.

Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, center, presides over a change of command ceremony for Combined Task Force 150 between outgoing commander Rear Adm. Sulieman Al Faqeeh, left, and incoming commander Commodore Dan Charlebois (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dawson Roth)

Formed in 2002, CTF-150 is a maritime defence force that conducts Maritime Security Operations outside the Arabian Gulf. Primarily dedicated to the deterrence, disruption and suppression of trafficking and other illicit maritime activity, CTF-150 also engages with regional and other partners to strengthen relevant capabilities in the region.

“These seizures have also helped international law enforcement agencies to develop a better understanding of current shifts in the drugs trade,” said Al Faqeeh at the ceremony. “Most importantly, these seizures have decreased funding for terrorist groups and aided efforts to combat the flow of illicit narcotics that have devastated communities on almost every continent.”

“During our tenure, we have also aligned ourselves closely with other task forces and groups, so that working relationships between us are now stronger than ever,” he added. “CTF-150 has completed three successful Key Leader Engagements whilst incorporating strict COVID-19 safety measures, both in-person and virtually. We are more efficient and more effective at coordinating our response at the tactical level.”

Vice Admiral Samuel Paparo, Commander, Combined Maritime Forces, who presided over the ceremony, was vocal in his appreciation; “The effort of CTF-150 under your leadership is laudable. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should be exceptionally proud of your service during its second opportunity to command the task force.”

“With an increase in CMF assets, an astounding feat in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, CTF-150 was able to shut down smuggling routes for both weapons and narcotics, and establish trends in drug commerce through extensive seizures. In doing so, not only did Rear Admiral Al Faqeeh’s team increase stability in this region, but also throughout the world.”

Commodore Dan Charlebois, incoming commander of Combined Task Force 150 speaks during a change of command ceremony onboard Naval Support Activity Bahrain (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dawson Roth)

The Canadian Armed Forces will lead CTF-150 for the next five months, alongside CTFs 151 and 152, which are currently led by the Pakistan Navy and the Saudi Border Guard respectively. Though the 33-nation group that makes up the Combined Maritime Forces is headquartered in Bahrain, CMF activities spread as far as the Suez in the northwest and far down into the Indian Ocean.

“I am honoured to have the opportunity to lead this dedicated group of joint Canadian-Australian professionals who comprise CTF-150. Together, in support of our coalition goals, we will strive to continue to ensure the protection and security of Middle Eastern waters,” said Charlebois at the event.

“My team will continue to strengthen our relationships with our maritime partners, to progress our interoperability, and to provide a robust security presence to some of the world’s most challenging and important international waters.”

Attending the changeover ceremony were distinguished visitors including Vice Admiral Fahd Al Ghofaily, Royal Saudi Naval Forces Commander, and representatives of KSA, CAN, BAH, AUS, UK and JOR, as well as numerous senior officers from coalition militaries.