Dutch train with Salisbury regiment in Texas

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2011

By Sgt. 1st Class
Gail Braymen
Division West Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas — When a brigade of Dutch air assault soldiers needed help getting off the ground during training here, an Army National Guard aviation company from North Carolina was happy to swoop in and assist.
Before the soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment, from Salisbury, deploy to Iraq for the second time, they are training in Texas with Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade.
The Netherlands’ 11th Air Assault Brigade is also training at Fort Hood for several weeks, in partnership with the 21st Cavalry Brigade.
When the National Guard aviators found out the Dutch soldiers needed air support, they readily agreed to help.
“There’s a chance we may be working with other coalition forces, or we may support State Department missions,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Martin Gottholm, an air mission commander with Company C. “It’s always good to work with other nations to see how they plan, and compare it with how we plan. Hopefully, we take away good things from each other.”
The 1-131st, an Alabama Army National Guard unit, will transport cargo, equipment and troops in support of Operation New Dawn. Flying the Dutch troops to and from missions in remote, unimproved areas of Fort Hood was real-world training for the Americans.
“We’re always looking to support a ground unit doing this type of mission, because this is the type of mission the units we train will be doing in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Capt. Brian Miles, training officer of the 166th Aviation Brigade’s 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment.
The 166th Aviation Brigade trains all National Guard and Reserve component aviation units — 47 percent of all Army aviation assets — before they deploy overseas. Sometimes, Miles said, the deploying aviators plan and execute training missions without getting to transport actual people.
“If we can get a ground force, it makes it a lot more realistic,” Miles said. “It’s a lot better if you use real troops.”
The National Guard aviators have worked with the Dutch infantrymen in three training exercises so far, with plans for a fourth later this month. At the same time, the 1-131st has been conducting an aerial gunnery.
It is a workload that training units typically could not sustain, Miles said.
“The 1-131st basically showed up (at Fort Hood) ready to go,” Miles said. “They are so prepared, they’re able to handle both events with no problem. The only other unit I’ve seen this good had already been in country for six months.”
The Dutch Soldiers appreciate not only the expertise and assistance of the American aviators, but the sheer size of the Fort Hood training area.
“There’s so much space for us,” said Dutch Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Westra, a training evaluator. “The villages in the training areas are really well built up. And there are a lot of helicopters here, which we don’t have in the Netherlands. That’s why we train here, to have all the assets, to incorporate the American air crew with our Dutch troops on the ground.”
Training with the N.C. National Guard troops is “realistic and relevant,” Westra said.
“(In Afghanistan and Iraq), we had to work together with the American soldiers, English soldiers and French soldiers,” Westra said, “so it’s really important to train in an international way. This is real life.”