Italy has taken command of the four NATO ships assigned to Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group TWO (SNMCMG2), as well as the prospective flagship ITS AVIERE, from Germany during a scheduled port visit in Catania on Thursday, 19 June 2014.
SNMCMG2 visited the port as part of the Group’s deployment to the Mediterranean to enhance maritime security and NATO’s readiness in the region, which has included support to NATO’s counter-terrorism Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR.
Led by Commander Matthias Seipel (GER N), SNMCMG2 is currently composed of FGS RHEIN (flagship, Germany), FGS WEILHEIM (Germany), HMS BLYTH (UK) and TCG AKÇAY (Turkey).
Over the past year, Commander Seipel has led SNMCMG2 from two German flagships, FGS MOSEL and FGS RHEIN, and the Italian flagship ITS ALISEO, as well as 14 mine hunters from the 6 Allied navies of France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
The ships of SNMCMG2 during this period sailed nearly 30,000 miles, conducting mine clearance and historical ordnance disposal operations to make the seas safer for all traffic. The ships conducted several NATO port visits, and non-NATO port visits to the Black Sea ports of Sevastopol, Ukraine, and Batumi, Georgia; to the Red Sea ports of Aqaba, Jordan, and Eilat, Israel; and to the Mediterranean ports of Tunis, Tunisia, and Valleta, Malta, to strengthen ties with NATO partners. They have also participated in the NATO Response Force (NRF) certification exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 13, the Greek mine warfare exercise ARIADNE 13, the Turkish mine warfare exercise NUSRET 13, the Greek Maritime Interdiction Operations exercise NIIRIS 14, and the Italian mine exercise ITA-MINEX 14.
“I wanted the Group to contribute to the Alliance’s strategic goals of Deterrence and Defence, Crisis Management, Cooperative Security, and Maritime Security,” said Commander Seipel. “Our successes in these areas have been possible due to a similar mindset, mutual understanding between Allies, and dedication of the team. We are facing the security challenges of the 21st century together as one. I am proud to say that I have been a member of team SNMCMG2.”
During the port visit, Commander NATO Submarines, Rear Admiral Robert Kamensky, presided over a pier side change of command ceremony, where Commander Seipel handed over command of the Group to Captain Giovanni Piegaja.
“The transfer of authority and responsibility from one commander to another is unique to seafarers,” said Rear Admiral Kamensky. “A naval change of command’s customs and traditions transcend national and cultural boundaries.”
After the conclusion of the change of command ceremony, FGS RHEIN departed the group and was replaced by the Italian frigate ITS AVIERE as the new flagship.
“It is a great honour and a privilege to take command of a Naval Force made of effective assets and highly qualified, trained and motivated personnel, provided by Nations of great knowledge and long traditions in mine Warfare,” said Captain Piegaja. “Together we will be definitely able to fulfil to our duties and achieve all the missions that we will be asked to accomplish.”
Press Release, June 23, 2014; Image: NATO