Naples, Italy - "You have worked silently and constantly to carry out your tasks during this mission. You have worked day and night to implement the United Nations Resolutions in support of the people of Libya. You have faced the elements and come under threat from regime forces. Your work has been vital, the results are impressive and you have all played your part in offering a new future to Libya”.
Vice Admiral Rinaldo Veri, Commander Maritime Command Naples is addressing the crews of four ships by radio link from aboard Task Group 455.01 Flagship ITS San Giusto. The ships keep tight formation despite the heavy swell and the autumnal sun is sinking on the Mediterranean on what is to be the last day of NATO's historic mission Operation Unified Protector carried out to implement UNSCRs 1970 and 1973.
With FS Commandant Birot, HMCS Vancouver and TGS Gelibolu shadowing ITS San Giusto off Sicily,
other NATO ships are redeploying from the Maritime Security Area in preparation for 11:59 local 31 October 201– the hour which NATO has decided will mark the end of mission.
For the Maritime Component it was time to remember the 23 March 2011 when VADM Veri officially announced to the public that he had placed his forces in position to establish an arms embargo in the maritime approaches to Libya as foreseen by UNSCR 1970. The message was that the "front door” to movements of arms, mercenaries and related materiel was "tight shut”. Only a few days later Veri was to warn that NATO from below the surface of the sea all the way up to maritime aircraft had established "layers of surveillance” that should make anyone think twice before trying to break the embargo.
For Rear Admiral Filippo Mario Foffi commanding NATO's surface fleet with a multi-national staff aboard ITS San Giusto the visit of VADM Veri with a group of journalist was an opportunity to offer some impressive statistics. "The surface group has seen the participation of a total of 49 ships from 12 nations and to that we add the eyes and ears given by submarines and maritime surveillance aircraft. More than 3,000 hours of helicopter flight and over a 1,000 hours by AV-8s (from ITS Garibaldi). More than 3,000 hailings, 311 boarding and 11 denials. The work has been massive and at any one time there have been from 2,500 to 3,000 sailors on the front line of this operation”.
According to VADM Veri, he felt it was particularly important to visit the ships before some of the assets dispersed at mission's end and bring them the words of recognition from senior NATO Commanders to include Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, Commander Operation Unified Protector. "The recognition is for a job well-done but also to recognise that these men and women have carried out their work day and night and some have been in harm's way from mines, small fast boats and artillery and rocket fire,” stated Veri.
"The speed with which we were able to establish the embargo was initially due to the presence of Standing NATO Maritime Group in the Mediterranean. My headquarters in Nisida also has the advantage of ten years of deterrence and surveillance operations in the Med thanks to the ongoing Operation Active Endeavour,” added Veri.
A journalist wanted to know what the admiral's personal satisfaction was as the mission drew to a close: "I have a twin satisfaction. Initially it was that I was helping the people of Libya but now I can add that there is the satisfaction that they are free to build their own future.”