Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) was established in 1973 as Standing Naval Force Channel (STANAVFORCHAN) to clear World War II mines from the English Channel. Fifty years on, it remains an active High Readiness Task Group, with a long history of clearing ordnance from the seas, making maritime routes safer for all maritime activity.
SNMCMG1 celebrated the half-century milestone with a ceremony at Riga Passenger Terminal where the ships’ crews and guests from NATO member and partner nations gathered on the flag-festooned quayside. Distinguished guests included ambassadors and military representatives from all nations who have made regular contributions to SNMCMG1 including many former Task Group commanders.
Maritime mines pose a silent but deadly threat, capable of causing tremendous damage to both civilian and military vessels. SNMCMG-1 has worked tirelessly to clear mines and unexploded ordnance, safeguarding human life and securing sea lines of communication so critical to the development of European nations’ economies. Through these endeavours, this group showcases the broader significance of mine countermeasures in fostering peace, stability, and progress.
SNMCMG1 is one of four maritime task groups that report to NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) in Northwood, United Kingdom. The Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Portuguese Navy Commodore Rafael Pinto spoke on behalf of MARCOM.
“The importance of mine countermeasures at sea cannot be overstated,” Pinto said. “Maritime mines pose a silent but deadly threat, capable of causing tremendous damage to both civilian and military vessels. SNMCMG-1 has worked tirelessly to clear mines and unexploded ordnance, safeguarding human life and securing sea lines of communication so critical to the development of European nations’ economies. Through these endeavours, this group showcases the broader significance of mine countermeasures in fostering peace, stability, and progress.”
SNMCMG1 remains a heavily engaged task group. The ships spent the last few months sailing the northern seas of Europe before entering the Baltic Sea and mooring in Riga. On Saturday, an open pier day will allow the people of Riga to take a closer look at the vessels and meet some of the crews on the quay. The ships’ crews will also take part in a sports event over the weekend fostering multinational unit cohesion.
Commander, SNMCMG1 Royal Norwegian Navy Commander S.G. Ole Torstein Sjo paid homage to his predecessors who laid the foundation for what the group has become.
“On this very day, half a century ago, ships and crews assembled in Oostende [Belgium] to inaugurate STANAVFORCHAN,” he said. “Since then, thousands of sailors have served their nations and the Alliance, demonstrating cohesion, multinational teamwork and providing NATO with a credible, immediate reaction force in times of crisis and war.
The mission has largely remained the same through all these years,” he continued, “We, the fortunate ones, will carry on the legacy of the sailors before us.
Throughout its 50 years of operations, the Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Task Group has provided the Alliance with a high readiness MCM force, ready to deploy when and where required by NATO. The Task Group has been operating in all corners of NATO’s area of responsibility. It supports its member nations with historical ordnance disposal operations on a continual basis. It is also represents the strong bonds between Allied nations through hard work, challenging conditions at sea, and port visits for replenishment, maintenance, and crew rest.
“Being part of this professional community and having the privilege to command the Task Group, is something out of the ordinary,” continued Sjo. “I am sure I share the feeling with the 54 commanders before me when I say it is simply amazing. It is amazing because of the professionals of the crews, the challenges we overcome and the friendships we establish across the Task Group as we continue our mission and joint endeavours. A sincere and humble thank you to all sailors who have served in STANAVFORCHAN, MCMFORNORTH and SNMCMG1. You are the best and you make me proud.”
The ships currently assigned to SNMCMG1 include flagship HNoMS Nordkapp and HNoMS Otra of the Norwegian Navy, FGS Rotweil of the German Navy, HNLMS Schiedam of The Netherlands Navy, BNS Bellis of the Belgian Navy, ENS Sakala of the Estonian Navy, and FS Pégase of the French Navy.