April 13, 2020 (Google Translation) – On Wednesday, April 14, 2021 at 10 a.m., the mine-hunting boat “Datteln” will call at its home port in Kiel again after three months of NATO service. The boat and its crew were part of one of the two permanent NATO mine countermeasures group, the “Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1”, SNMCMG 1 for short Leave Kiel on Thursday, April 15, 2021 and join the NATO alliance again as a new German contribution.
For the 42 men and women of the crew of the “Datteln”, including a soldier of the US Navy, the previous mission was exhausting, but very successful. Under the leadership of Corvette Captain Tanja Merkl (35), the boat and crew took part in extensive searches for contaminated sites in Dutch, Danish and Latvian waters. In addition, various exercises with Danish, Swedish and naval units from other nations were on the program. “We found what we were looking for in every maneuver. We brought various mines and aerial bombs to safe locations. This protected pipelines, underwater cables and nature protection zones. In my opinion, a very successful force participation,” said the commander about her track record. With a view to the sometimes very bad weather and almost no shore leave in the ports, she adds: “The crew achieved a lot and suffered a lot of privations”. After three months and over 6,200 nautical miles (approx. 11,500 km), she is now returning home and is looking forward to four weeks of vacation.
The 43-person crew of the “Sulzbach-Rosenberg” will be heading east to join the association. The program will initially include participation in the “Open Spirit 2021” maneuver in Estonian waters, followed by an exercise with Finnish and then Danish naval units, before participation in the US “Baltops” maneuver is planned from the beginning of June. “The crew knows what to expect, after we were in the same NATO alliance last year. They are accordingly motivated and are particularly looking forward to working with them internationally,” said the commander of the boat, Lieutenant Captain Florian Förster (35 ). As part of the preparation for the mission, the entire crew was vaccinated against the corona virus. The return home is after the completion of the “Baltops” maneuver.
For the two boats of the 3rd Minesweeping Squadron, the change at this point is rather unusual. Behind this is the decision of the German Navy to temporarily limit the times for such NATO stoppages, which normally last up to six months, to a maximum of three months for the relatively small minehunters. Due to the restrictions of the global corona pandemic, the crews have almost no possibility of going ashore.