Italy assumes command of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2

Handover ceremony (Source: NATO MARCOM)

On 22 June 2021, Spain handed over the Command of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) to Italy in a ceremony held in Cartagena, Spain on board ESPS Méndez Núñez, the outgoing flagship.

During the Spanish Command, SNMG2 has deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Black Sea. Throughout this period, SNMG2 has taken part in main exercises in both regions, such as “BREEZE 20”, “SEA BREEZE 20”, and “SEA SHIELD 21”, hosted by Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Romanian Navy in the Black Sea Region; NATO exercises “DYNAMIC MARINER 20” and “DYNAMIC MANTA 21” and also other multinational exercises like “MAVI BALINA 20”, “ZEST 20”, and “PHIBEX 21.” In the last month of May, SNMG2 had also the opportunity to join SNMG2 and other allied nations in the maritime livex of NATO flagship exercise “STEADFAST DEFENDER 21” recently finished off the Portuguese Coast.

SNMG2 took part in Passing Exercises (PASSEX) and/or interactions with navies and air forces of allied nations such as France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey.

Under Rear Admiral Aguirre´s Command, SNMG2 had visited several ports in allied countries such as Bulgaria, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Turkey, and contributed to NATO´s diplomatic efforts conducting diplomacy port visits to Algiers, Georgia, Israel and Ukraine.

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Photo courtesy of NATO MARCOM

Since assuming command of SNMG2 on 30 June 2020, Rear Admiral Aquirre hoisted his COMSNMG2 broad pennant in ESPS Alvaro de Bazán, ESPS Cristóbal Colón and ESPS Méndez Núñez, and temporarily in ESPS Patiño and TCG Kemalreis. Up to 17 ships from 8 Allied countries have provided surface units to the Group during the period.

“Thanks to the sacrifice, strength, and spirit of achievement of our people, balancing readiness, resilience and resistance with health and well-being, the impact originated by this COVID-19 pandemic was contained and the Force was able to keep operating at sea maintaining its high readiness, as a core part of the NATO Response Force and showing that NATO maritime forces are able to keep in good shape and ready to deploy when and where they are required,” said Aguirre.

The new Commander is the Italian Navy Rear Admiral, Stefano Russo, who has hoisted his COMSNMG2 pennant onboard the Italian frigate ITS Virginio Fasan.

“I am deeply honoured to have the opportunity to command Standing NATO Maritime Group Two, as well as grateful to the Italian Authorities who selected me for this challenging assignment,” said Russo. “I look forward to working with my staff and the assigned Maritime Forces in a highly professional and dynamic context such as the NATO Reaction Force and I will do my best to strongly support NATO Deterrence and Defence posture, guaranteeing Maritime Security in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, as well as the cohesion and fair cooperation with Allied and Partners. Now that it appears that the pandemic is giving us a reprieve, I sincerely hope that this will improve crew morale and help restart in-person relationships with our partners during port visits.”

The Change of Command Ceremony was headed by the Deputy Commander of NATO Maritime Command, Vice Admiral Didier Piaton.

“Overall, you managed to establish a visible NATO presence throughout the Mediterranean and the Black Sea and clearly contributed to the Alliance by strengthened Deterrence and Defence posture,” said Piaton.

SNMG2 is one of the four standing forces that comprise the maritime component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF). To respond to contingency situations, additional forces can be added to these groups, with the NATO command staff on board and the ships of the Group as the nucleus, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations.

Check out Naval Library App to find out the specifications of SNMG2 assets.

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