June 23 (UPI) -- With a ceremony aboard the USS Mount Whitney, the U.S. Navy assumed command of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 for the first time.
Cmdr. Jan Wijchers of the Royal Netherlands Navy handed over the command to Capt. Sam Brasfield of the U.S. Navy, who will use the German Navy's FGS Elbe as his flagship, a NATO statement on Tuesday said.
The group, formed in 1973, is one of four standing NATO maritime groups.
SNMCMG1 includes six minesweeper vessels from various countries in a mine countermeasures immediate reaction force to provide NATO with an immediate operational response capability, according to the alliance.
It also is deployed as an on-call maritime force of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.
"It is a huge honor and privilege to stand before you today taking command of this Group," Brasfield said at the June 19 change-of-command ceremony in Kiel, Germany.
"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," Brasfield said.
In the six months under the command of the Royal Netherlands Navy, the group covered nearly 12,000 nautical miles, executed five mine countermeasure operations and found 89 historical ordnances in reducing the risk for maritime activities in the Baltic and North Seas, according to the U.S. Navy.
The group also participated in two major naval exercises and visited 18 ports.