He has now handed over command of Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) to his Spanish successor, Rear Admiral Joaquín Ruiz Escagedo, during a Change of Command Ceremony on 11 January - marking the end of one year of SNMG1 under German leadership.
NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) Chief of Staff, Spanish Navy Rear Admiral Jose Enrique Delgado, presided over the change of command ceremony on behalf of Commander MARCOM.
I am very grateful to my national and NATO authorities for having designated me as Commander of SNMG1, activated as a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force Maritime Unit. I do hope to rise to that important challenge and to prove the true commitment of Spain and its Navy to NATO´s collective defence
Throughout the last year, SNMG1 has provided comprehensive maritime situational awareness, monitoring activities across the operational area and ensuring permanent deterrence against any possible threat, with a professional and robust approach. A significant part of the mission was the surveillance and monitoring of critical undersea infrastructure (CUI).
The operational area of SNMG1 includes the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and large parts of the northern Atlantic. Therefore, ships from the task group deployed regularly to multiple locations simultaneously.
From monitoring critical undersea infrastructure, to exercising NATO plans and tactics, to deterring threats at sea – it’s been a busy year in command for German Navy Rear Admiral Thorsten Marx.
In the past year, 29 ships from ten allied countries served with SNMG1 – peaking in the summer of 2023 with eleven ships in the task group. SNMG1 also played a vital role in contributing to the maritime security in the Baltic during the NATO summit in Vilnius.
"I look back on a demanding and rewarding deployment, during which I spent a total of 267 days at sea with my two flagships Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Hessen, covering 70,390 nautical miles and visiting 40 ports on behalf of NATO reassurance,” said Rear Admiral Marx. “Throughout the year, I had a total of 29 ships with approximately 4000 sailors under my command, with whom I participated in 10 NATO major exercises and secured the NATO Summit in Vilnius from the sea."
Participation in NATO exercises throughout the deployment ensures a constant state of high readiness. All units demonstrated flexibility and professionalism by participating in exercises such as Joint Warrior, Dynamic Mongoose, Dynamic Guard, Formidable Shield, Arctic Dolphin, Baltops, Allied Warrior, Northern Coast, Neptune Strike and Freezing Winds. These exercises practised complex and realistic scenarios alongside NATO allies and partners, strengthening interoperability between allies.
SNMG1 also took part in bilateral cooperation and joint training with various partners, training with naval units from 14 partner nations. In addition, SNMG1 conducted 65 port visits, including to all the Baltic Sea coastal states. The task group received a warm welcome at official receptions, press visits and from the public as well. A highlight was the visit to Helsinki, where SNMG1 made its first entry as a NATO task group after Finland's accession to NATO.
"In addition to our contribution to the security of critical infrastructure in the North and Baltic Seas, we have been able to successfully implement the deterrence mission, especially in the Baltic Sea,” said Rear Admiral Marx. “The cooperation and information exchange between NATO allies has been further intensified. The high readiness of the maritime VJTF Task Group SNMG1 enabled NATO to react promptly at any time, if necessary, and has proven to be a reliable element of reassurance in external relations. The great acceptance of our work at sea by NATO allies has strongly confirmed the operational approach over the past twelve months."
Spanish Navy Rear Admiral Joaquín Ruiz Escagedo will command the task group for the next six months.
"I am very grateful to my national and NATO authorities for having designated me as Commander of SNMG1,” he said, “activated as a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force Maritime Unit. I do hope to rise to that important challenge and to prove the true commitment of Spain and its Navy to NATO´s collective defence.”
SNMG1 is one of four standing naval forces that comprise the maritime component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF). They are the core of NATO's maritime capabilities, carrying out NATO missions across the full spectrum of operations, ready to respond to any task at any time.