Turkey took over Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2)’s command with a virtual ceremony led by Maritime Command Commander on 19 February, NATO Maritime Command announced. The ceremony took place in Istanbul, Turkey, with the core personnel of the flagship TCG Sokullu Mehmetpasa, TCG Ayvalık, and ESPS Tajo.
“I am honored to have the opportunity of commanding SNMCMG2. I’m looking forward to working together with highly trained and skilled Mine Countermeasures (MCM) communities from different Allied nations. During my term, we will operate in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean to enhance NATO’s solidarity and readiness in these regions. Besides NATO and non-NATO port visits, we will participate in three exercises. We are fully aware that conducting such exercises regularly upkeeps a collectively trained and interoperable capability for NATO needs. I believe in the professionalism and devotion of my staff and crew of the flagship and MCM vessels. My staff and I are well prepared, and we are ready for the tasks ahead,” said the new Commander of SNMCMG2, Captain Yusuf Karagulle, of the Turkish Navy, during the Change of Command ceremony via video conference.
Turkey will command SNMCMG2 for the fifth time since the inception of the Group. Between 20 February-16 April 2021, the Group will participate in mine warfare exercises in Greece, Italy, and Romania. MCM vessels from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, Spain, and Turkey will join in SNMCMG2 at different periods.
The main task of the Group is to make seas safer for all NATO Allied and partner nations while sailing together in unity. The Force will serve in COVID19-free bubbles, not mingling with outside members and without shore leave during port visits, allowing the Force to keep its readiness level.
SNMCMG2 is one of 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 Group’s ships as the nucleus, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations.