February 19, 2021 – On 20 February 2021, Turkey took over the command of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2). The virtual Change of Command was held on 19 February, led by Vice Admiral Keith Blount, Commander of Maritime Command, and the ceremony took place in Istanbul, Turkey with the participation of core personnel of the flagship TCG Sokullu Mehmetpasa, TCG Ayvalık, and ESPS Tajo.
“I am honored to have the opportunity of commanding SNMCMG2. I’m looking forward to working together with highly trained and skilled members of Mine Countermeasures (MCM) community from different Allied nations. During my term; we will operate in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean in order to enhance NATO’s solidarity and readiness in these regions. Besides NATO and non-NATO port visits, we will participate in three exercises as we are fully aware that conducting such exercises on a regular basis upkeeps a collectively trained and interoperable capability for NATO needs. I believe in professionalism and devotion of my staff and crew of the flagship and MCM vessels. My staff and I are well prepared and we are ready for the tasks ahead,” said the new Commander of SNMCMG2, Captain Yusuf Karagulle, of the Turkish Navy, during the Change of Command ceremony via video conference.
SNMCMG2 will be commanded by Turkey for the fifth time since the inception of the group. Between 20 February-16 April 2021, the group will participate in mine warfare exercises in Greece, Italy and Romania. MCM vessels from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, Spain and Turkey will take part in SNMCMG2 at different periods.
The main task of the group is to make seas safer for all NATO Allied and partner nations, while sailing together in unity. The force will serve in COVID19-free bubbles, not mingling with outside members and without shore leave during port visits, allowing the Force to keep its level of readiness.
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 (NRF). To respond to contingency situations, additional forces can be added to these groups, with the NATO command staff on board and the ships of the Group as the nucleus, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations.