Change of Command after busy year for SNMCMG1
By NATO Allied Maritime Command
Commander Piotr Bartosewicz of the Polish Navy lauded the personnel that have been under his command, including Canadians aboard His Majesty’s Canadian Ships Summerside and Shawinigan, as he handed over the command of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) to Commander Artur Krüger of the German Navy during a ceremony on Jan 8 at Świnoujście Naval Base in Poland.
Commander, Submarines NATO U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Wall presided over the change of command ceremony on behalf of Commander, Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM).
Poland assumed command of SNMCMG1 on July 6, 2023. Under Polish command, SNMCMG1 vessels contributed to maritime security in NATO’s area of responsibility by monitoring the waters in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, North Sea and Baltic Sea region. The Task Group provided NATO with a constant presence, protecting sea lines of communication and reducing the risk posed by explosives from both World Wars that are still present in open waters and ports across Northern Europe.
“Over the last six months, there were on average eight ships in the Task Group, with a peak at 15 ships total during Exercise Northern Coasts 23 when approximately 660 souls were under my command,” Bartosewicz said. “I had the pleasure to work with professionally prepared officers, non-commissioned officers and sailors who knew how to perform the assigned tasks – even the most difficult and complex activities.”
The group routinely trained and had interactions with navies and air forces of Allied nations and Partners enhancing interoperability and cohesion. Throughout the Polish deployment, SNMCMG1 conducted historical ordnance disposal operations in French and Estonian territorial waters, took part in several large-scale multinational exercises including Sandy Coasts 23, Northern Coasts 23, Freezing Winds 23, as well as multiple national naval exercises with extensive individual training opportunities, mainly focused on mine countermeasures procedures.
SNMCMG1 successfully neutralized approximately 50 mines leaving the water safer for the international maritime community.
In total the group visited 18 ports in 11 countries, presenting the NATO flag and delivering the message of NATO unity and active presence in the region. The group also contributed to NATO’s diplomatic efforts conducting port visits to Non-NATO nations Ireland and Sweden.
During the past six months, SNMCMG1’s multinational forces included up to 10 Allied ships representing 6 Allied countries. The Group consisted of the flagship, Polish mine countermeasures command ship ORP Czernicki (511) with international staff on board, two Polish minesweepers ORP Drużno (641) and ORP Hańcza (642), minehunters from: Belgium BNS Crocus (M917), Canada HMCS Summerside (711) and HMCS Shawinigan (704), France FS L’aigle (M647), Germany FGS Bad Bevensen (M1063) and from The Netherlands NLMS Vlaardingen (M863) and NLMS Zierikzee (M862).
Krüger will command SNMCMG1 for the remainder of 2024. FGS Donau (A516) of the German Navy will serve as flagship for the first half of the year.
“Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 is a spearhead of NATO and a symbol of the Alliance’s cooperation and collaboration, Krüger said. “Special challenges await us in difficult times, which we will face with high motivation. Participation in international exercises and maneuvers serves to maintain the high operational readiness of the crews and presence in the Alliance area.
It is a great pleasure for my staff and myself to lead this multinational, constantly operational maritime task group.”