Royal Canadian Navy officer Josee Kurtz has become the first female commander of a NATO Standing Maritime Group as she takes up the helm of Group Two in the Mediterranean until the end of the year.
Commodore Kurtz has over 31 years of naval service, joining the navy at a time when women were only just being allowed to go to sea and hopes her appointment will serve as an inspiration to others of the opportunities a naval career can offer.
Speaking to the Canadian Press she said that “this appointment speaks to the value of diversity at the sailor end — at the people level I think it’s a tremendous opportunity and I hope that it sends a positive signal.”
She described her appointment as “humbling”, having been chosen from a group of highly distinguished naval officers recommended by the alliance’s constituent navies.
NATO Standing Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) is one of the four flotillas maintained by the NATO alliance and is predominantly based in the Mediterranean. It usually consists of 4-8 escorts provided by various NATO navies with occasional support provided by auxiliary ships.
Since she took command the flotilla has included ships from Turkey, Romania, Germany, Greece and the United Kingdom. With her flagship for the deployment being the Canadian frigate HMCS Halifax which was also her first command in 2009.
The first leg of her deployment saw her undertake two exercises in the Black Sea to support regional allies Ukraine and Bulgaria. British destroyer HMS Duncan, completing her third SNMG2 deployment in three years, joined the group for these exercises prior to her reassignment to support HMS Monmouth in the Persian Gulf.
Exercise Sea Breeze 2019 was led by Ukraine and the United States and saw the flotilla visit Odessa in Ukraine. Though Russian forces monitored the exercise Commodore Kurtz stated that it was able to proceed without incident. The second exercise, Breeze 2019, was then led by Bulgaria working to ensure the readiness of NATO forces to support allies in this region.
“It makes sense that from time to time we pay a visit in areas where some allies and partners have a coastline,” she said highlighting the importance of the NATO presence and the opportunities it offered her Canadian sailors to hone their training.