Lithuania Takes Command Of NATO Group In Remote Ceremony

Norway has handed the command of the group to Lithuania in a remote ceremony to prevent the risk of coronavirus.

Lithuania took command of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) from Norway on Thursday.

The incoming Lithuanian Commander Audrius Venckunas will be embarked on board LNS Jotvinges.

They will continue to provide posture and ensure readiness in the maritime component of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force throughout the next six months.

"It is a big honor for me to assume the duty as the Commander of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One and at the same time a big responsibility," Commander Venckunas said.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony was held remotely and it was presided via video conference by the Commander of NATO Maritime Command, Vice Admiral Keith Blount.

Norwegian Commander Henning Knudsen-Hauge, who led the group during the past five months, said he is "proud" of the efforts, professionalism and adaptability shown by the crews during the last months.

SNMCMG1 vessels pose for a photo during Estonian historical ordnance disposal operations (HODOPS) in the Baltic Sea CREDIT Royal Norwegian Navy 250520
SNMCMG1 vessels during Estonian historical ordnance disposal operations in the Baltic Sea in May (Picture: Royal Norwegian Navy).

"The deployment turned into something we could not foresee, with COVID-19 forcing us to impose strict rules and regulations on our crews.

"No shore leave was granted during port visits and logistical stops, and we stayed at sea for prolonged periods – all this in order stay fit, healthy and operational to fulfill our commitment to our Allies as a ready force.

"We are all in this together," Commander Knudsen-Hauge said.

Norwegian personnel monitored NATO's sea lines of communication and contributed to maritime security in the region, routinely training with allies and partners to enhance interoperability.

During the rotation, nine ships contributed to SNMCMG1, with several of them having valuable experience from current operations in the Persian Gulf and Libya in 2011.

In total, the group carried out five historic ordnance (HOD) operations over a period of 49 days, covering more than 95 square nautical miles and clearing a total of 45 mines.

Cover image: Norwegian forces part of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One in the Baltic Sea in May 2020 (Picture: Royal Norwegian Navy).