Standing NATO groups welcome new flagships in Spain

NATO’s two standing maritime groups welcomed new flagships in a ceremony at naval station Rota, Spain, on July 26.

SNMG1, the group that mainly operates in the North and Baltic Sea, has a US Navy ship at its helm again as USS Gravely (DDG 107) was relieved by sister destroyer USS Gridley (DDG-101).

Gravely departed Naval Station Norfolk December 28, 2018 with 320 embarked sailors and, with an allied staff embarked. It assumed duties as flagship with in Copenhagen, Denmark on January 14.

Following the quick integration, SNMG1 went on to effectively complete operations in the North Atlantic and the Norwegian, North, and Baltic Seas, including exercises Dynamic Guard, Joint Warrior, BALTOPS 2019, and Dynamic Mongoose.

Upon departure from Rota, SNMG1 will integrate a number of new ships into the force and continue their 2019 deployment. The second half of the deployment will see a continued focus on NATO Maritime Command’s Maritime Express construct which includes more exercises and operations.

The SNMG2, predominantly operating in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, welcomed Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Halifax as its new flagship.

RCN Commodore Josée Kurtz assumed command of SNMG2 during a ceremony in Souda Bay, Greece, on June 15. Shortly after this, SNMG2 sailed the Black Sea, with British destroyer HMS Duncan, Romanian frigate ROS Regele Ferdinand, and Turkish frigate TCG Turgutreis.

Together, they joined allies and partners participating in the joint Ukraine-US exercise Sea Breeze 19. On conclusion, SNMG2 headed to Bulgaria to participate in the Bulgarian-led exercise Breeze 19.

“On behalf of HMCS Halifax, I am incredibly honored by and excited for the opportunity to serve as Commodore Kurtz’s flagship,” said Commander Scott Nelson. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our team to work closely with the staff of SNMG2, and under the leadership of Commodore Kurtz.”

Photo: Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) man the rails as the ship pulls into Naval Station Rota as part of a scheduled port visit. Photo: US Navy