PORTSMOUTH, United Kingdom – Polish Navy Commander Aleksander Urbanowicz turned over command of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2) to Royal Navy Commander Justin Hains today during an Operational Handover and Change of Command ceremony held at Her Majesty’s Naval Base, Portsmouth.
Commander Urbanowicz has led the group from a Polish Mine Countermeasures command ship, ORP Kontradmiral Xawery Czernicki (511) since January 2017. Throughout the six-month deployment, SNMCMG2 was comprised of seven different MCM vessels including: German minesweeper FGS Rottweil, Italian minesweeper ITS Alghero, Romanian minesweeper ROS Slt. Alexandru Axente, Spanish minehunters ESPS Duero and ESPS Tajo, and Turkish minehunters TCG Alanya and TCG Erdek. The group spent more than 130 days at sea transiting more than 14,000 nautical miles.
The group honed its mine location and neutralization skills at several international exercises including Romanian exercise Poseidon in the Black Sea, Greek exercise Ariadne in the Aegean Sea, Italian exercise Mare Aperto in the Mediterranean and Spanish exercises Minex and Flotex in the Alboran Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The group also visited 20 ports in nine countries, hosting ambassadors, foreign diplomats and naval leadership.
"Acting within the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 allowed us to broaden our operational perspective. In spite of the fact that basically the Polish Navy conducts tasks in the Baltic and North Sea areas, our interests are where NATO interests are,” said Commander Urbanowicz. "Cooperating together with our Allies and partners under the one flag - NATO flag, has confirmed that together we can do more. I am very pleased that I can handover the command of the Group to my British colleague, whom I wish the good seas and fair winds."
Commander Hains will lead from the new flagship for SNMCMG2, the British Hydrographic Survey and operations command ship HMS Enterprise. Enterprise will initially be joined by a Turkish minehunter. Ships from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, and the United Kingdom will join SNMCMG2 later this year.
"It is an immense privilege to take Command of SNMCMG2 for the next 12 months. NATO is the cornerstone of UK Defence, and I have benefitted from every interaction I have had with other nations throughout my career,” said Cdr. Hains, "With my multinational command staff, I look forward to continue building deeper understanding and cooperation across and beyond the Alliance.
SNMCMG2 is a multinational integrated force that projects a constant and visible reminder of NATO’s solidarity and cohesion afloat in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The Standing NATO Maritime Groups provide NATO with a continuous maritime capability for operations and other activities in peacetime and in periods of crisis and conflict. They also help to establish Alliance presence to maintain maritime security, conduct routine diplomatic visits to different countries, and provide a variety of specialist military maritime capabilities to ongoing missions.