Chief of Staff Allied Maritime Command Spanish Navy Rear Admiral Jose Enrique Delgado presided over the change of command ceremony onboard the outgoing flagship Royal Navy HMS Duncan (D37).
During the more than five months of Stroude’s tenure in command, the Task Group remained focused on its role as part of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Maritime), which was activated in response to Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Operating predominantly in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and with international tensions still high, SNMG2’s activities were characterized by maintaining ceaseless vigilance, presence and readiness, to reassure regional Allies, deter adversaries and, if necessary, defend NATO territorial integrity.
“This Change of Command is a profound reaffirmation of the bond and cohesion that exists amongst NATO member states. That in our collective strength lies the guarantee of peace and stability for our nations,” said MARCOM Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Jose Enrique Delgado, Spanish Navy. “Operating predominantly in Central and Eastern Mediterranean Sea, throughout its tour, the SNMG2 remained at constant readiness, contributing to NATO´s deterrence and assurance, and providing NATO Allies and Partners with full maritime situational awareness”.
I am honoured and grateful to assume the role of Commander SNMG2, activated as a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Maritime), during such a tough time. Taking command of this task group is a thrilling challenge, as well as a huge responsibility. I inherit an important legacy of all that my predecessor, Commodore Stroude, achieved, and as a task group we are ready to do whatever it takes to accomplish our mission
Since Stroude assumed command of SNMG2 in June from the United States, a total of 19 different ships contributed directly to the Task Group from nine different NATO nations: Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Türkiye, and the United Kingdom. The Task Group worked with dozens more Allied ships and submarines, which operated in associated support to the mission, as well as with numerous allied aircraft. His multinational staff was drawn from seven contributing nations: Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Romania, Spain, Türkiye, and the United Kingdom.
Reflecting on the period, Stroude said, “Commanding this multinational task group has been the most extraordinary privilege and experience. Every ship and every nation that I have had the pleasure to work with has contributed its own individual skills and capabilities. Yet it is remarkable how through being united by a common purpose and a common set of values, and with a common set of operating procedures and equipment, these ships could come together and work seamlessly such that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. This is the true strength of the NATO alliance. Our success from start to finish was also underpinned by the power of friendships, and the incredible support that was altruistically provided to the Task Group by the network of NATO Mediterranean nations. This was extremely humbling.”
With the handover to Esposito and his flagship, Italian Navy ITS Carlo Bergamini (F590), complete, Stroude expressed the importance of continuity for this long-standing NATO mission, saying, “Whilst this ceremony marks the end of my tenure in command, the work of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two endures. It is hugely reassuring to know that as I depart, Rear Admiral Esposito will continue to deliver this vital mission for NATO. This Task Group is the first line of defence of our freedom, and we can never let our guard drop.”
In reply, Rear Admiral Esposito said, “I am honoured and grateful to assume the role of Commander SNMG2, activated as a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Maritime), during such a tough time. Taking command of this task group is a thrilling challenge, as well as a huge responsibility. I inherit an important legacy of all that my predecessor, Commodore Stroude, achieved, and as a task group we are ready to do whatever it takes to accomplish our mission.
“Under my Command,” he continued, “the task group will continue to demonstrate how well NATO allies operate together. SNMG2 is well placed to respond to any operational requirement that may arise, ensuring interoperability and readiness. Our continuous presence in the Mediterranean strengthens the deterrence and defense of the Alliance.”
SNMG2 is one of four Standing Naval Forces that operate under NATO Allied Maritime Command, headquartered in Northwood, United Kingdom. SNMG2 is a multinational integrated task group that projects a constant and visible reminder of the Alliance's solidarity and cohesion afloat. This continuous maritime capability performs a wide range of tasks, including exercises and real-world operations in periods of crisis and conflict.