Story by PO2 Cameron Stoner on 09/07/2019NORFOLK, Virginia Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) forces arrived at Naval Station Norfolk Aug. 17 as part of a scheduled visit prior to commencing a series of training events at sea in the local area.
Norfolk is the first port visit since SNMG1 departed Brest, France Aug. 6, where the force assembled for operations. The visit in Norfolk presented an opportunity for NATO Allies to meet with one another to discuss upcoming training events and future operations. It also provided an opportunity to strengthen personal ties and allowed Allied Sailors to enjoy Norfolk.
"SNMG1's presence in Norfolk is a demonstration of NATO maritime forces' flexibility and agility and a statement regarding the strategic importance of the North Atlantic as the bridge that connects Europe and North America," said Rear Adm. Edward Cashman, commander, SNMG1. "The task of the Standing Maritime Groups is to be continuously ready to respond to crises or contingency as the maritime core of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. Our mission is to support NATO's collective defense mission through assurance and deterrence."
During the visit, multiple office visits were conducted, giving the Task Group leaders the chance to speak with Kenneth Alexander, Mayor of the city of Norfolk, Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, and Vice Adm. Bruce Lindsey, deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
With the one-year anniversary of the establishment of U.S. 2nd Fleet coming up on Aug. 24, Vice Adm. Lewis reflected on the importance of interoperability and presence in the North Atlantic.
"The basic fighting unit is not the one ship, it's the group," said Lewis. "The way to take advantage of that is to integrate which is what we're doing here with U.S. 2nd Fleet and SNMG1."
Following the group's arrival, Cashman and commanding officers from the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101), the Belgian Navy Karel Doorman-class frigate Leopold I (F930) and the Portuguese Navy frigate NRP Dom Francisco de Almeida (F334) met with Michael Desplaines, president and CEO of the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. Desplaines took the group on a tour of the gardens and showed them the renovation of the garden's NATO Tower, an overlook named in honor of the Alliance who has its North American headquarters in Norfolk.
"We were happy to host the team here to discuss our long connection to NATO and their families," said Desplaines. "We are proud of our long history together and we are passionate about Norfolk Botanical Garden's mission to connect people to nature through the world of plants so we can address the environmental crisis. World leaders, including the military leaders of NATO, can help us in that mission. We're happy to provide them and their families the opportunity to connect with nature while they are stationed here in coastal Virginia."
The culmination of the port visit was a reception held aboard the Portuguese frigate NRP Dom Francisco de Almeida. During the reception, SNMG1 staff, leadership from various Allied countries, and friends and family were brought together to discuss the importance and purpose of NATO relationships and the future of the Alliance while also enjoying Portuguese hospitality.
SNMG1 is one of four standing maritime task groups composed of ships from various Allied countries. These task groups form the core maritime capabilities of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). They provide a continuous maritime capability to execute NATO missions across the spectrum of operations, demonstrate solidarity, and strengthen diplomatic and professional links among Allied naval forces.