Dutch Army Commander enters International Fellows Hall of Fame
January 8, 2013
The U.S. Army War College and the Commander of the Royal Netherlands Army collaborated today both to recognize his career achievements and to discuss his insights about leadership in multinational operations.
The War College leadership, student body, and faculty honored Lt. Gen. Mart De Kruif with induction into International Fellows Hall of Fame. Lt. Gen. De Kruif earned a master's degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College in 2003. The Hall of Fame recognizes graduates who have held the highest positions in their nation's armed forces or an equivalent position in a multinational organization.
"Life is full of surprises and some of them are nice ones," said De Kruif, during the ceremony. "I'm honored to join the distinguished men and women inducted into the USAWC International Hall of fame. In a global society, the Army War College proves that international cooperation is a source of power."
He credits his Army War College and the ability to study, discuss, integrate and communicate with his U.S. colleagues for a very deep understanding of how the U.S. Army works, and for the trust and confidence reflected by his selection to command the ISAF Regional Command South in 2009.
De Kruif's remarks to the class were colored by his current challenges and the influence of his Afghanistan experiences. As the Army commander, De Kruif is responsible for training and educating all Dutch army units and personnel, and leading a major reorganization of the Royal Netherlands Army. As commander of the multinational force of 45,000 soldiers comprising the International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] Regional Command South, October 2008 to November 2009, De Kruif honed his understanding of Multinational Operations.
Hard-earned insights crystallized his thoughts about effective coalitions and operational reality.
For our junior leadership, international cooperation is an everyday reality, he said, and a stark contrast to his own years as a young captain when his battle position looked east and he prepared to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Dutch-only troops.
"Now, when [a young Dutch commander] leaves the base, he's accompanied by Afghan national army and Afghan national police," he said. "They are mentored by Australians and by French. The camp is guarded by Slovakians. His top cover comes from Belgian F16s and Mirages from France and US fighters from Bagram. If he gets in a fight in troops-in-contact, and one of his soldiers is wounded, we call in the medevac helicopter from the United States, which is accompanied by Apaches from the Dutch air force. We bring him back to the field dressing station where a surgical team from Singapore saves his life, probably with blood from the British blood bank from Helmand …. Then we call in a Canadian C130; we fly him back to Kandahar where nurses from Romania will take him to the operating room where a surgeon from the United States will stabilize him. We fly him back with a British plane to the United Kingdom and we pick him up there.
"That is reality … on a day-to-day basis," said De Kruif. Strategic leaders have an obligation to ensure that our people are prepared for this kind of cooperation and it must be done during their training and education, he said.
Coalitions will be your future, he said to the senior leaders in the class who should plan for additional skills as leaders of international coalitions: language skills; intra-coalition cultural awareness; mastery of the technical aspects of mission command, and trust; guts; and risk-sharing.
Two aspects of effectiveness belong to the strategic domain -- to your domain, he said.
Effective international cooperation depends on quality and risk-sharing at the political-military level.
The success of every coalition is dependent on the quality of the contribution of its members, and quality does not refer merely to technology but rather and more in particular to the quality of the people -- people with specialized knowledge, with open minds, language skills who can work on a team and are respectful of colleagues.
And, a coalition has no chance of surviving if its members are not willing to share the risks during operation
Despite limitations ranging from minor obstacles to political sensitivities, coalitions are a tremendous source of strength and military power.
"Coalitions will be your future," said De Kruif. "Commit all your strengths and efforts to make the coalition better and more effective. This will not only make you a better commander but a better person."
View the full 20-min video presentation of Lieutenant General Mart De Kruif at www.youtube.com/armywarcollege
Lt. Gen. De Kruif is the fifth Dutch officer to be inducted into the Army War College's Hall of Fame.
The Netherlands Armed Forces have been involved in the ISAF mission since 2002, currently executing police training in the Kunduz province, ISAF Regional Command North).
The 2013 International Fellows Program incorporates 71 international officers, representing 67 countries, into the joint, interagency and multinational student body of the U.S. Army War College. The International Fellows study, research, and write on subjects of significance to security interests of their own and allied nations; their participation as Fellows enriches the educational environment and fosters mutual understanding and effective working relationships between senior U.S. officers and senior officers of selected foreign countries.