In attendance was Commander Surface Forces NATO and Deputy Chief of Staff Operations at Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM), Rear Admiral Stefan D. Pauly.
The ceremony took place on the main deck of ITS Stromboli. It marked the end of a one-year deployment under Turkish command, as Turkish Navy Captain Ahmet Serhat Akyazi was relieved by Italian Navy Captain Ettore Ronco.
During the first six months of the tour, SNMCMG2 was commanded by Captain Yusuf Karagulle.
During my tenure, my command aim has been to form and maintain a high state of operational readiness and best standards, in order to fulfil the range of mission assigned to SNMCMG2 and thus provide MARCOM with a continuous, effective MCM capability to fulfil NATO Immediate Response Force requirements
The Turkish Navy deployed the Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Command and Support Ship
TCG Yzb.Gungor Durmus (A-574, Auxillary Oiler (ship) Replenishment/Light) for a year, providing strong logistical support for the NATO mission.
Italian Navy ship ITS Stromboli is now the flagship of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2), formally taking charge of the task group from the Turkish Navy at a ceremony in La Spezia on 5 July 23
“During my tenure, my command aim has been to form and maintain a high state of operational readiness and best standards,’ said the Commander of SNMCMG2 Captain Ahmet Serhat Akyazi, “in order to fulfil the range of mission assigned to SNMCMG2 and thus provide MARCOM with a continuous, effective MCM capability to fulfil NATO Immediate Response Force requirements.”
During the year-long deployment, twenty MCM ships took part in the group at various times from 9 Allied nations, and SNMCMG2 participated in 6 major NATO exercises. These multi-national NATO exercises were beneficial for SNMCMG2, providing a robust level of integration between ships and establishing successful results in MCM operations. These exercises were also a good opportunity to promote interoperability and mutual understanding among the NATO units, as well as maintaining high readiness.
In addition, SNMCMG2 projected Alliance presence, demonstrated solidarity, conducted port visits to NATO and partner nations, and provided a variety of maritime military capabilities to ongoing activities.
“Overall in this deployment, I believe that the benefit for my crew and staff was on a very high level,” said Captain Ahmet Serhat Akyazi. “Throughout the exercises, PASSEXs, interactions and our own training, we managed to reach a very high level of efficiency, readiness and response in all aspects. Our group not only managed to adopt and assess every challenge, but also provided flexible solutions whenever necessary, with a highlighted reactiveness and perseverance. Without any doubt, this deployment was much more than educational, and the lessons learned will benefit the next deployment.”
All participating units were quickly integrated into the Group. That was due to the interoperability, professionalism and experience obtained working and training in the international MCM community since 1999.
“Finally, all the commanding officers, crew and staff officers, petty officers and sailors, who have participated as part of the SNMCMG2, have shown great friendship, loyalty and discipline,” continued Captain Ahmet Serhat Akyazi. “Every ship’s crew has shown professionalism, dedication and a will to improve and maintain the high readiness level of our group. We have presented a concrete example of NATO’s motto, “Stronger Together”. I feel very proud to have commanded this group of fine ships. It has been an honour and privilege for me to have the opportunity to be the Commander of SNMCMG2.”
After assuming command, Italian Captain Ettore Ronco addressed the audience, saying the opportunity to command SNMCMG2 is an honour.
"Taking command of this NATO task group is a huge privilege but also an enormous responsibility,” he said. “My team and I are highly motivated for the road and tasks ahead, and we are eager to get started. I would like to thank Captain Ahmet Serhat Akyazi for the outstanding job he has done so far. It is undoubtedly a heavy inheritance and, for sure, the best starting level I would wish for my period as Commander of SNMCMG2.”
“During my command, training will be oriented towards maintaining high standards of readiness,” Captain Ronco continued, “to increase the important process of integration and cooperation between the forces of the Atlantic Alliance.”
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 this group, with the NATO command staff on board the Flagship, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations.