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NEWS | June 13, 2023

Exchanging Cultures and Ideas: Cmdr. Philipp Klimmek, German Navy

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Matthew Fink

German Navy Cmdr. Philipp Klimmek is the exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS 23) mine countermeasures (MCM) syndicate lead, responsible to Naval Striking and Support Forces (STRIKFORNATO) for planning and executing all MCM evolutions throughout the exercise. The following is an excerpt of a conversation in which he reflects on his 22- year naval career, his experience as part of a U.S.-Germany personnel exchange program and helping to plan BALTOPS. This story has been edited to improve readability and context.

“I joined the German Navy in 2001, and I started my career in operations. After a year, I made the decision to become a mine clearance diver, so I went through that process for another year. My first assignment was on a German mine hunter, and after that I got the opportunity to become an officer. I studied nautical science for four years at Jade College in Elsfleth, Germany, and that is when I started my mine countermeasures career. Over the next ten years, I was a diving officer, executive officer, and then commanding officer of the minehunter FGS Bad Rappenau (M1067).

Being a commanding officer has been one of my favorites so far. I sailed a lot: in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Working with German sailors and officers for four and a half years, it was awesome.

The Germany Navy has a personnel exchange program with the United States to trade knowledge and experience, and I signed up to move to San Diego and work with U.S. Navy Mine Countermeasures Group (MCMGRU) 3. I had been on ships my whole career, so this was different because it was a level higher. We are the ones making those decisions on what the ships have to do.

Moving was tough at first, and it was a decision I had to make with my family. It was their first time moving out of Germany, and it was also during COVID. But I would say it was a very good experience for all of us to have the opportunity to learn the language and to experience how things work in the States. We will be sad to leave, and I would definitely do it again.

This is my third BALTOPS and second as the MCM syndicate lead. My commodore asked me if I would like to take the job, and I was a little bit nervous in the beginning, but after the first conference it was amazing to see how many people and nations work together to make BALTOPS happen. It is really fascinating to build up a plan, watch NATO forces execute it and then get feedback afterwards. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with other nations in this way.

In the end, it is the people that keep me doing this job. I don’t want to sit in the office with a window and computer screen. I stay in this job for the experience of working with people and with other nations. That is why I am here.”