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Jack Richardson 

In a ceremony held remotely due to COVID-19 measures, Romanian Commander Valentin-Catalin Vlad handed over the command of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2) to Greek Commander Dimitrios Katsouras, on 15th June 2020. The ceremony on Monday was presided over by Commodore Jeanette Morang, Royal Netherlands Navy, Commander Surface Forces at NATO Maritime Command Commander Katsouras holding the command of SNMCMG2 for six months aboard the new flagship HS ALIAKMON.

This concludes a successful six-month NATO deployment after Commander Vlad embarked on board the SNMCMG2 flagship ROS VICE ADMIRAL CONSTANTIN BALESCU on 16th January 2020. During his rotation the Force has consisted of flagship ROS VICE ADMIRAL CONSTANTIN BALESCU (Romania), BGS PRIBOY (Bulgaria), FGS FULDA (Germany), TCG AKCAY (Turkey), TCG ANAMUR (Turkey), HS EVROPI (Greece).

Considering Coronavirus

Under Commander Vlad, SNMCMG2 was able to successfully plan, organise and conduct training sequences, thus ensuring a high readiness state in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. SNMCMG2 carried out a full spectrum of mine warfare, maritime traffic monitoring, as well as tasks in support of NATO Operation Sea Guardian and actions to deter potential threats against the Alliance. Commander Vlad’s command of SNMCMG2 was strongly influenced by the COVID-19 virus pandemic in terms of the risk of infecting crews aboard ships so protection and prevention measures were implemented. This put severe restrictions on the SNMCMG2 staff and crews, but they not only managed to stay COVID free, but also kept moral and readiness high.

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. To respond to contingency situations additional forces can be added to these groups, with the NATO command staff onboard and the ships of the group as the nucleus, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations.