FORT HOOD, Texas -- Dutch soldiers and aircrews with the 302nd Squadron at West Fort Hood hosted an envoy and general officers from the Netherlands here, Feb. 13-15.
The Hon. Henne Schuwer, Netherlands Ambassador to the U.S., joined Dutch Maj. Gen. G.W. van Keulen, director, Army Management Control Operations Readiness and Air Commodore Theo ten Haaf, the Netherlands Defense Attache, as they met with Dutch troops and leaders, and observed training conducted by the Royal Netherlands Army and Air Force.
Rain and low cloud cover precluded a planned trip to Brady in the western training area. Instead, Dutch soldiers and air crews conducted exercises on Fort Hood training lands to illustrate some of the training they are able to complete at Fort Hood, including a troop insertion using CH-47 Chinook helicopters and an interdiction exercise with AH-64 Apache helicopters over Llano in the Texas Hill Country.
"I think it is important for the ambassador to really appreciate and get an understanding of the training at Fort Hood," ten Haaf said.
This marked the ambassador's first trip to the Great Place. He said he was struck by the vastness and space in the training areas.
"The training areas (on Fort Hood) are almost the size of the Netherlands," Schuwer said. "We have a unique opportunity to do this here. The real-life training is invaluable."
The ambassador noted that the Dutch have conducted operations with U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past and now are conducting operations in Iraq and Syria together. He said it is good to train with U.S. troops here as well.
There are other benefits to the joint training aside from the tactical advantages, he noted.
"It's good to train with U.S. forces here," Schuwer said. "It gives a level of confidence."
Training at Fort Hood fosters the relationship between Dutch and U.S. troops and builds trust that carries into missions down range and has already been proven to help with interoperability.
"It's about bonds and ties," van Keulen said. "These kinds of bonds and ties are very close. We can all work together."
The ambassador noted the importance of the continued relationship between the U.S. and the Netherlands, a relationship he said dates back to the New Amsterdam colony here in the 1600s.
"We have the unique opportunity here to not only train, but to train with our biggest ally," Schuwer said.
Working with U.S. troops in garrison helps the Dutch familiarize with the different regional accents that American Soldiers have, which is important when they are conducting joint missions in theater, van Keulen noted.
"We all speak the same language," the general said, noting that the exposure to different American accents has been a benefit.
Training conducted here by the 302nd Sqdn. is the continuation of a more than 20-year partnership between the Dutch and Fort Hood.
The Dutch value the training space and capabilities in Central Texas and have continued to expand their programs to leverage the assets here.
"It's a proven concept," ten Haaf said. "The proof is in the pudding. We saw we could adapt training here."
Both ten Haaf and Lt. Col. Peter Grijspaardt, commander, 302nd Sqdn., were involved with the program at Fort Hood in its infancy in the mid-1990s.
They have seen the Dutch program grow from AH-64 Apache helicopter qualifications to the addition of CH-47 Chinook helicopter training for the RNLAF. Pilots from the RNLAF complete their initial flight training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, but come to Fort Hood for mission qualification.
They also now bring in Dutch air assault companies and joint tactical air controllers for training missions with U.S. and Dutch troops.
Members of the RNLAF and RNLA also have training possibilities in Holland and in other parts of Europe, but at Fort Hood they have the ability to cater their training to fit a variety of potential scenarios.
"Here, you can train as you fight, so you fight as you train," Grijspaardt said.
For the 302nd Sqdn., that training is coordinated from the Netherlands to the U.S.
From the Netherlands, van Keulen sets the conditions and the prerequisites for what must be achieved in any training.
"We set the standards and what has to be achieved," van Keulen said.
At Fort Hood, the ability to frame and tailor a battlefield scenario to fit training requirements ensures Grijspaardt and the 302nd can meet set objectives.
"We see from the ground up," the 302nd commander said. "We can look at gaps."
Visits from Dutch military leaders give them a first-hand view and verification that the training in Texas is effective and valuable.
When ten Haaf and van Keulen return to the Netherlands, they will provide updates to Dutch defense leaders.
Both are pleased with what they have seen at Fort Hood.
"We are committed to continuing the training," ten Haaf said. "We get great value out of training here."