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    US, Dutch soldiers deploy to White Sands Missile Range for joint exercise

    C-17 Unloading at White Sands

    Photo By John Hamilton | A C-17 Transport plane unloads it's cargo after landing on the gypsum flats of White...... read more read more



    Story by John Hamilton 

    White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs

    Sand blew and engines roared as a Patriot missile battery deployed to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, as part of a joint coalition emergency readiness deployment exercise on June 19 that included the Dutch military.

    The exercise made use of the range's Space Harbor airfield up in the gypsum fields and dunes that give WSMR its name. All the major components of the the Patriot missile battery arrived on C-17 transport planes, which were loaded at Fort Bliss, Texas and flown to the WSMR, where the personnel unloaded and set up the system just as they would in the field.

    "In the era of persistent conflict the need for a rapidly deployable force, especially air and missile defense, is essential," said Capt. Greg Woods, a battery commander with the 2nd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment. "So the ability to establish a (missile) site in the desert and fly in equipment is necessary for future conflicts and the readiness of our unit."

    While exercises like this are fairly common among rapidly deployable forces, this one, in addition to involving the deployment of a Patriot missile battery, also brought in a coalition element. Air Defense soldiers from the Dutch Army joined their American counterparts and assisted in the construction and operation of the battery.

    "We're from Europe and in Europe we also have the Patriot system, and we have an exchange officer over here. He made it possible for us to come over here and do combined training," said Sgt. Maj. Edwin Bekker, from the Army of Holland. "I'm very glad the American Army invited us..."

    The Dutch military, while smaller than the U.S. military, makes use of many of the same systems, including the Patriot missile system. By conducting joint training, the U.S. and Dutch military personnel not only gain experience working together, they can also compare their techniques and procedures and potentially find better ways of doing things.

    "The procedures the Americans use are different from how we work, and a lot of things are better. Some things we do differently, so we can ask each other 'is it better?"' said Lt. Tommie Couwenberg, a Patriot tactical control officer from the Army of Holland.

    "Most of all, the collaboration with the Americans, learning their procedures, learning about their actions and work, that's a very big learning curve for us. We don't have the experience to do exercises like this where you work with foreign countries, so this is a very big experience for us."

    The terrain and weather of WSMR's central range area also added a unique facet to the training. The unpaved runway gave the transport pilots a challenge representative of a rapid forward deployment. The summer weather and white sand put the soldiers in a scorching and blinding environment, taking everyone out of their comfort zone.

    "This temperature is crazy," Couwenberg said. "I think in the Netherlands it's like 50 degrees right now."

    The exercise lasted just a day, with both militaries leaving by convoy the following day, but for the Soldiers of both countries, the opportunity to spend some time in the field together was invaluable.



    Date Taken: 06.19.2016
    Date Posted: 07.12.2016 13:41
    Story ID: 203714

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