Interview with Commodore Deertz: “We provide a link”

For three months now, Commodore Axel Deertz has been in command of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 vessels in the Mediterranean. In line with a decision taken by the Alliance, parts of this SNMG2 force support the NATO activity in the Aegean Sea. In this interview, he explains what makes this mission between the Turkish and Greek coasts special. Commodore Axel Deertz Bild vergrößern Commodore Axel Deertz has been in command of SNMG2 since December 2016. (© Bundeswehr/POA Ägäis)

Commodore, on 22 December 2016 you assumed command of SNMG2. How did you prepare for this particular assignment?

As commander of one of the three maritime operations staffs of the German Navy, I have already commanded various international maritime task groups during operational manoeuvres and deployments abroad. I kept myself well informed about SNMG2 and especially the activity in the Aegean Sea both during my previous assignment as Head of Division in the Federal Ministry of Defence and when I was Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations at German Navy Headquarters.

Shortly before deployment, some of my staff and I received instructions and the latest updates at NATO Allied Maritime Command in Northwood in the United Kingdom as well as the Federal Ministry of Defence and Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command in Germany. I also felt it was important to get in touch with Turkish and Greek counterparts early on to build up a strong network.

Admiral Deertz (2) Bild vergrößern In the Aegean Sea, the raritime force cooperates closely with local authorities and FRONTEX. (© Bundeswehr/POA Ägäis)

An assignment to support NATO’s activity in the Aegean Sea is very special. How is this assignment different from SNMG2’s normal tasks?

In the Aegean Sea, NATO plays more of an intermediary role, a link to connect the different players: the Greek and Turkish navies, the coast guards of both countries and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency FRONTEX. Some of the SNMG2 ships focus on the agreed surveillance areas in the Aegean Sea. Another part of our forces covers the actual agenda for the year in the Mediterranean, simply being present as well as carrying out manoeuvres and visiting ports between the Black Sea and northern Africa.

Bild Interview Deertz 3 Bild vergrößern Admiral Deertz visits his force's ships regularly. (© Bundeswehr/POA Ägäis)

What are the challenges for you and your multinational staff?

There are many different tasks to complete. Providing support in the Aegean Sea takes a lot of coordination, not least because ships change regularly and stay at sea for different periods of time.

At the same time, we on board the “Sachsen” keep a close eye on the programme of our ships in the Mediterranean. I am also keen to make sure that my staff maintains their expertise. All of this must be done with a rather small staff in which Germans and non-Germans work together.

Bild Interview Deertz 4 Bild vergrößern The commander and his flagship: the "Sachsen" will soon be replaced by the frigate "Brandenburg" - Commodore Deertz will remain in command of the force. (© Bundeswehr/POA Ägäis)

The frigate “Brandenburg” left Wilhelmshaven yesterday and will soon replace the “Sachsen”. What are your goals for the remainder of your time in the Aegean and the upcoming change of flagship?

The intention is that changing the flagship will disrupt command as little as possible. My remaining three months will be shaped by how the NATO activity in the Aegean develops. We have to be ready for possible changes and adapt processes and procedures at short notice if necessary. I would wish that we manage to create enough leeway within the operation to give the frigate “Brandenburg” a chance to pursue training and exercises during its activities in the Aegean.

Allow me one personal question at the end. How does someone who used to operate fast patrol boats feel on board the “Sachsen”, which displaces almost 6000 tonnes of water?

I have previously commanded forces from on board frigates and combat support ships. “Large” ships are therefore not new to me. But I am still very impressed with the technical capabilities and the perfomance of the “Sachsen” and her committed crew.

This is the translation of an interview conducted by Christopher Lechner and published on www.bundeswehr.de