WEST FORT HOOD — The Netherlands took its military training relationship with the United States a step further Monday during a ceremony attended by the Dutch minister of defense and commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
Officials from the Royal Netherlands Air Force uncased the colors of the 302nd Squadron at the unit’s West Fort Hood helicopter hangar. The new squadron replaces the Joint Netherlands Training Detachment, which has trained Dutch soldiers and airmen under Fort Hood’s 21st Cavalry Brigade since 1996.
In an ever-changing world with new actors gaining influence, the only way to move forward is for solid NATO allies to work in cooperation with each other, said Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert in her first visit to Fort Hood.
“We have to reinvent our strength and work together and respond together as we face new and emerging powers,” she said.
The joint training allows for mutual trust and relationships to build, said Brig. Gen. Douglas Gabram, deputy command of support for the 1st Cavalry Division, during his remarks at the ceremony.
Dutch service members train in five-week rotations on Apaches and Chinooks and at Fort Hood’s Air Assault School. The 94th training class is currently underway, and about 200 Dutch soldiers and airmen are currently stationed at Fort Hood. That number will not change with the activation of the squadron, Hennis-Plasschaert said.
Rather, the squadron’s colors on American soil solidify the relationship between the allies, she said.
“The Netherlands greatly values the essential contribution of the United States,” she said. “It boosts our military effectiveness to react to global threats.”
When she returns to the Netherlands, the minister said she will share the importance and value of this relationship, even as the Dutch military faces budget tightening also seen in America.
While she is interested in expanding, maybe one day adding unmanned aerial systems to the training, Hennis-Plasshaert said sustaining what is already built is most important.
“Good training facilities are vitally important,” said Lt. Gen. Alexander Schnitger, commander of the Dutch air force. Those training at Fort Hood now are expected to deploy to Mali in the near future, he added.
Col. John White, commander of the 21st Cavalry Brigade for the past five months, said watching the Dutch military’s training schedule never ceases to amaze him.
The relationship not only benefits his brigade and Fort Hood, but the entire U.S. military.
“We’ve seen when we fight it’s as coalition partners, and the Dutch have been very good partners,” White said.