The Netherlands Takes Command of NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group
DEN HELDER, Netherlands – This morning, Lithuanian Navy Commander Giedrius Premeneckas handed over command of Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group ONE (SNMCMG1) to Dutch Navy Commander Peter A.J. Bergen Henegouwen during a brief ceremony conducted by NATO Allied Maritime Command's Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Commodore Arian Minderhoud.
SNMCMG1 has been commanded from the flagship LNS JOTVINGIS since August 2014. Upon completion of the change of command ceremony, the new flagship of SNMCMG1 will be FGS DONAU, an ELBE-class German tender. The mine hunters assigned include BNS LOBELIA (Belgium), HMS PEMBROKE (UK), and FGS AUERBACH (Germany). HNLMS WILLEMSTAD (Netherlands) was also present for the ceremony and will join the Group next month. In the coming months, these ships will be joined by Polish and Norwegian mine hunters.
"SNMCMG1 has been a critical asset for the Alliance in the past year, playing a major role in providing maritime situational awareness, and in providing assurance to Allies of NATO's commitment to collective defence," said Commodore Minderhoud. "We are very proud of the outstanding job Commander Premeneckas and his team have done these past six months in rising to every challenge, and we look forward to continued great work under Dutch command, as SNMCMG1 will continue to play an important role in sustained assurance measures in 2015."
Commander Premeneckas took command of the Group on August 7 during a port visit to Klaipeda, Lithuania. This deployment marked the first time that one of the Baltic States commanded one of NATO's four Standing Naval Forces.
During his time in command, the Group participated in a number of large-scale multinational exercises, including the Finnish Navy-led NORTHERN COASTS 2014 and the Royal Navy-led joint forces exercise JOINT WARRIOR 2014. The Group's ships also put their specialized skills and equipment to use conducting historic ordnance disposal operations off the French coast, clearing mines dating back to World War I and II in an effort to make the waters safer for all who use them.
"I am grateful to the Commanding Officers and crews, staff personnel of SNMCMG1 for their professionalism and dedication serving under my command," said Commander Premeneckas. "All our achievements surely have to be credited to their exceptional team work, and I would feel privileged having a chance to serve with them in the future."
The Group also visited numerous ports in the Baltic, demonstrating Alliance commitment to collective defense with visits to Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, and strengthening partnerships with a visit to Finland.
Now under Dutch command, the Group will continue to play an integral role in the Alliance Maritime Strategy in 2015 as it deploys in support of sustained assurance measures, taking on similar challenges to those faced by its predecessors.
"Mine countermeasures is a very difficult type of warfare," said Commander Bergen Henegouwen. "Having good international relationships on all levels contributes to our common knowledge and experience. This is essential for our future capabilities in keeping the waters safe for all mariners."