The U.S. Navy will transfer command of counterpiracy maritime efforts to the Turkish Navy on Sunday, according to a Navy news release. The move marks the first time Turkey will command a Combined Maritime Forces Task Force.

Since its inception in January, U.S. ships have led the counterpiracy effort, called Combined Task Force 151, under the Navy’s 5th Fleet in the Middle East.

Turkey now will lead the multinational effort that patrols and monitors 1.1 million square miles of water, including the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. Shipping lanes there are used by roughly 23,000 commercial vessels each year.

Governmental instability and poverty in Somalia have given rise to piracy attacks on merchant vessels. The U.S. Navy, which had led efforts to safeguard waterways, says 24 ships have been hijacked this year, and pirates have made an additional 53 unsuccessful highjacking attempts. That’s well ahead of 2008’s pace, when a record 40 ships were hijacked.

As of early this week, pirates still held 17 ships and more than 270 crewmembers captive for ransom, said Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet.

Bamberg earns DoD environmental awardU.S. Army Garrison Bamberg has won the 2009 Secretary of Defense’s Overseas Installation Environmental Quality Award, according to a news release from the base.

The garrison was selected on April 19 based on its commitment to environmental stewardship, the release said.

The award dates to 1962 when the secretary of defense first honored individuals, teams and installations for their achievements to conserve and sustain natural and cultural resources entrusted to the Department of Defense, the release said.

USAG Bamberg credited much of its success to the city of Bamberg and its enforcement of environmental standards.

Bamberg’s Environmental Management Division’s programs ensure the installation is in compliance with local, state and federal regulations, both U.S. and German, the release said.

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