On Tuesday, 29 October 2013, SNMCMG1 marked 40 years of service afloat with a ceremony in port, during the harbour phase of Exercise STEADFAST JAZZ 2013.
More than 260 crewmembers from six SNMCMG1 ships participated in this event along with former commanders of the Group and official guests from all over Europe. The ceremony marks 40 years of continuous mine counter-measures capability for the NATO Response Force (NRF) and non-NRF operations, as well as other activities provided by the Group during periods of peace and periods of crisis.
The Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 is currently comprised of the flagship ORP ‘Kontradmiral Xawery Czernicki’ (Poland) and five minehunters: BNS Narcis (Belgium), ENS Admiral Cowan (Estonia); FGS Dillingen (Germany), HNLMS Makkum (The Netherlands) and HNOMS Rauma (Norway).
Maritime Command Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Commodore Dan MacKeigan, Royal Canadian Navy, participated in the ceremony alongside the Commander of the Maritime Operations Center of the Polish Navy, Vice Admiral Stanislaw Zarychta.
“It is an honour to be in Poland to help commemorate this milestone in the history of allied naval service,” said MacKeigan. “Our minesweeper groups have a proud legacy of making the seas safer for all mariners, military and civilian alike, through their efforts to keep the sea lines of communication open and safe.”
SNMCMG1 was formed in the Belgian port of Ostend on 11 May 1973, and was originally called ‘Standing Naval Force Channel.’ The Group was under the command of NATO’s English Channel Force Commander. The motivation behind this group’s creation was primarily to ensure safety of navigation around the ports of the English Channel and northwest Europe. In the event of a major conflict, the Group was to change area of operation for the North Sea around the coast of West Germany.
In 2000, its area of operation was significantly expanded, and the name changed to ‘Mine Countermeasures Force Northern Europe.’
The emergence of new threats and security challenges led NATO to adapt to its new strategic environment and to expand the spectrum of its tasks. Following the 2002 NATO Prague summit, the group was renamed ‘NATO Response Force MCM Force Northern Europe’ to reflect this new responsibility.
In 2006, the group was given its current name. Like its Mediterranean counterpart, SNMCMG2, the command of the group is handed over annually to a senior officer appointed by one of the participating nations on a rotational basis.
SNMCMG1’s mission is to provide continuous and far-reaching maritime mine countermeasures capability for operations in peacetime and periods of conflict. The group is therefore engaged in search and disposal operations within NATO but also with NATO partners.
Among other missions, the Group conducts Historical Ordnance Disposal operations to minimize the threat from old WWII mines for all those who use the sea for their benefit – fishermen, cargo ships, ferries and the like.
Press Release,October 30, 2013; Image: NATO