By U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs
For the first time, the U.S. Navy assumed command of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) during a change of command ceremony held onboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) and via video teleconference on June 19, 2021.
U.S. Navy Capt. Sam Brasfield relieved Dutch Cmdr. Jan Wijchers of the Royal Netherlands Navy as the commander of SNMCMG1. Brasfield will command SNMCMG1 from the flagship FGS Elbe (A511) of the German Navy.
“It is a huge honor and privilege to stand before you today taking command of this Group," said Brasfield. "SNMCMG1 is a multi-national integrated force that demonstrates a constant and visible reminder of the Alliance's solidarity and cohesion. This is the first time the U.S. will lead a SNMCMG, demonstrating our resolve and commitment in supporting NATO.”
During the almost six months deployment under Dutch command, SNMCMG1 covered almost 12,000 nautical miles, flying the NATO flag and contributing to constant situational awareness in the waters and ports of Northern Europe. They executed five mine countermeasure operations, found 89 historical ordnances, reducing the risk for maritime activities in the Baltic and North Sea; participated in two different naval exercises including BALTOPS 50. During the deployment SNMCMG1 visited 18 ports, delivering the message of NATO unity and active presence in the region. During the deployment the force maintained a continuous pandemic-free bubble, ensuring the availability of the NATO Force.
"I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation towards all SNMCMG1 personnel sailed under my command and thank them for their proven professionalism, motivation and excellent duty. With all respect, I hand over the SNMCMG1 command to Captain Sam Brasfield, and I am very certain that the readiness and professional skills and effectiveness of the SNMCMG1 under his command will continue to meet the highest standards," said Wijchers.
Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) is one of four standing maritime groups composed of ships from various allied countries. These vessels are continuously available to NATO to perform different tasks ranging from participation in exercises to operational missions. They also serve as an on-call maritime force as a part of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) while exhibiting forward presence and contributing to operational interoperability among Allied naval forces to support greater regional security and stability.
Prior to assuming command, Brasfield was assigned to Commander, Task Force 68, which commands all Navy Expeditionary Forces in U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility and is responsible for providing explosive ordnance disposal operations, naval construction, expeditionary security, and theater security efforts in order to conduct non-combatant evacuation operations and point and area defense to protect and defend critical infrastructure and high value assets against terrorist attacks direct support of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and U.S. Sixth Fleet.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.