Dutch, 21st Cav kick off Chinook training with visit from Dutch chief
November 29, 2012
FORT HOOD, Texas (Nov. 29, 2012) -- Dutch airmen training under 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat) ushered in a new era of joint training with the kickoff of their CH-47F Chinook program, Nov. 27. To mark the occasion, Gen. Thomas Middendorp, chief of Royal Netherlands armed forces, visited the Central Texas installation to view the inaugural Chinook exercise and meet with his troops and their American counterparts.
During remarks to his Dutch army and air force troops Monday evening, Middendorp complimented the combined American-Netherlands contingent on their hard work and recognized the training benefit provided to the Dutch by 21st Cav. Bde. and Fort Hood.
"It is realistic training with unique scenarios. Compared with the facilities in the Netherlands, the huge exercise area here at Fort Hood provides almost unlimited training possibilities," Middendorp said. "It enables me to prepare my men and women for real deployments."
The Dutch chief's visit coincided with the first Dutch CH-47 Chinook helicopter exercise and the lead off event to the newest American-Netherlands training partnership that will train Dutch pilots on tactics, techniques and procedures of the Chinook, as well as augment the ongoing Dutch army training program here by providing in-house lift capabilities.
Dutch forces have worked with Fort Hood and the 21st Cav. Bde. since 1996, and established a permanent contingent here in 1998. Training began with an AH-64 Apache helicopter program and has evolved to include ground training for Dutch Soldiers, and now the Chinook program.
"Today marks an important milestone in the cooperation between two allies, specifically in the cooperation between American units here at Fort Hood and the Dutch units who train and exercise here," Middendorp said. "It is also an important step in the continuing professionalization of the Netherlands armed forces."
That day was Nov. 27, the beginning of American Falcon exercises, the five-week Chinook training program at Fort Hood that will augment and enhance skills for Dutch CH-47 pilots. Starting next year, five classes will be offered each year, Middendorp said.
Capt. Dirk Lange, a Chinook pilot with the Royal Netherlands Air Force, is part of the initial training group. A pilot-in-command in the RNLAF, Lange is at Fort Hood for the five-week course learning tactics, techniques and procedures and helping validate the recently received Dutch Chinooks.
"There is great potential with the program," Lange said. "This is great for skill building and developing strategies."
One of the Dutch trainers, Capt. Harmen Profittlich, arrived at Fort Hood, Monday, but he was already seeing the benefits of training at the Great Place. One of the biggest pluses for the Dutch aviators is the wide open space for flying which is in contrast to much tougher flight restrictions in Holland.
"This is high-end training," he said. "We can fly year-round here instead of six months."
Profittlich said Middendorp's visit to view the beginning of the Chinook training was a big deal and reflected the importance of their mission at Fort Hood.
"It shows he is interested in what we are doing and that it is important to him. It's important to us, too," Profittlich said. "Joint training is a big part of our training."
Training is conducted here in five-week courses and allows the Dutch troops to not only work together in combined exercises, but builds rapport and communication between allies as the Netherlands works cooperatively with American troops on their exercises.
That joint training, not only between service branches, but between nations, is important not only because militaries benefit from shared resources in these tough fiscal times, but also because it strengthens international relations for joint operations, as seen in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Emco Jellema, commander, Joint Netherlands Training Detachment, said.
"We share resources and utilize our funds better by doing this training together," Jellema said. "The facilities and training grounds here give us completely new opportunities for training."
Jellema has seen firsthand the benefit of the joint training during his time in southern Afghanistan.
"We build trust and can find each other quickly when we have trained together," he said. "We take lessons learned together and implement them in future missions."
For the Dutch, a large part of their joint training happens at Fort Hood because of the open training areas and air space, realistic training scenarios offered by 21st Cav., and favorable Central Texas weather conditions, Middendorp added.
That partnership will continue, the Dutch chief of armed forces said.
"This is where I can get the best out of my personnel and materiel," Middendorp said.