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Stop the Enemy & Arrest Them; Oirschotse Heide, January 20, 2011

Action with the 11th Air Mobile Brigade; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

On Thursday, January 20, I attended one of the exercises of the 11th Air Mobile Brigade. The purpose of the exercise was to overpower and capture the occupiers. The scenario took place on the Oirschotse Heide and at Fort Crèvecoeur. For this exercise I was present at the Oirschotse Heide to see the action.

There was a big exercise of the Dutch 11th Air Mobile Brigade (11LMB) in the week of January the 17th to the 21st of 2011. The exercise took place at two different locations. The first location was on the terrain of Fort Crèvecoeur. This area is located next to the Maas River near the city of Den Bosch. The second part of the exercise took place at the Oirschotse Heide near the city of Eindhoven. The joint exercises between the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC) and the Air Mobile Brigade of the Dutch Army are resumed because the deployments to Afghanistan are ended. The air force and army unit are because of these kinds of exercises ready for new deployments to crisis areas if needed. Especially the Afghanistan scenarios were practiced during the last few years. It is important that the Dutch troops will start a training which simulates different aspect of modern warfare.

The scenario during the first part of the exercise was to overpower two bunkers which were occupied by criminals. The criminals had appropriated the bunkers to them- selves. This is not acceptable and the Authority therefore has decided to recover the bunkers by using military force. There were over one hundred infantrymen of the Charlie Tiger Company of the 11th Air Mobile Brigade involved during this conflict. This unit was supported by helicopters of the Defense Helicopter Command. The main focus of this part of the exercise was to pick up and to drop soldiers at difficult locations. The helicopters were continuously under enemy fire. The main task of the Apache helicopters in this scenario was to protect the transport helicopters against enemy fire during landing and during take-off. It was not possible to land with a Cougar in this very small area under these circumstances. The soldiers of the LMB had to use the fast rope technique to land on the enemy territory. Soldiers will drop ropes out of the helicopter; they slide down along these ropes while the helicopter is hovering above the target. The criminals also used Russian- made anti-aircraft guns.

The Apaches had to destroy these batteries first before the transport helicopters could enter the area. The fort was quickly taken and the prisoners were transported by Chinook after the landing of the ground troops. The helicopters were able to land at this point of the mission, because the terrain was safe now.

The second part of the exercise took place at the Oirschotse Heide. Here the scenario was completely different. The unit had to arrest a suspect who was driving with a vehicle during this part of the exercise. The suspect was armed and on the run. Two scenarios were trained on how to overpower the vehicle. The first scenario was with a stationary vehicle and the second one with a moving vehicle. The Air Force dropped the soldiers of the 11LMB in front of the parked vehicle by Chinook. The vehicle was located by a Forward Air Controller. He sent the Chinook to a suitable landing zone. The soldiers immediately took position and overpowered the vehicle within seconds. They entered the vehicle and arrested the suspect. In the next scenario they had to stop the vehicle first because it was driving away. The soldiers of the 11th LMB received help from an Apache of no 301 squadron. The Apache fired warning shots in front of the vehicle and went into a hover in front of the vehicle in order to force it to stop. The Chinook appeared again and landed next to the vehicle. Again the soldiers captured the driver. The Apache was flying around to protect the ground forces.

Today it was a beautiful winter day. The sun was shining and I knew a number of flight movements were planned on the Oirschotse Heide for today. The Forward Air Controller arrived after thirty minutes of waiting. It was clear that I immediately walked to the right place on the heath. The Forward Air Controller (FAC) told me that a Chinook and an Apache helicopter would join the exercise today. The designated landing zone was the open area in front of me. The first helicopter entered the training area within fifteen minutes after the FAC arrived. After a few minutes a Chinook appeared on the horizon. A Jeep showed up in the middle of the field; this Jeep was the target for the Chinook. The Chinook flew several laps around the terrain first. After a good landing spot was found, the soldiers from the Chinook directly went to the vehicle, and overpowered them. The Chinook had found a suitable landing spot where it could drop the soldiers of the 11th LMB. The soldiers moved towards the vehicle and entered it to arrest the driver. This scenario was repeated four times.

For the second part of the exercise an Apache helicopter appeared on the horizon. The mission of the Apache was to stop the moving vehicle by showing military force. The Apache was approaching the vehicle from behind and fired several warning salvos. The vehicle stopped and the Apache went in a hover in front of the vehicle between the trees. I took photos which I had in my mind for several years already. Now I finally had the opportunity to take photos of the Apache while it was hiding behind the trees. I saw the pilots who were watching us closely from this sheltered position. The Chinook entered the area again to drop off the soldiers of the 11th LMB. They again arrested the driver and took him with them. The pilot of the Chinook made a very low fly-by when he took off with this big helicopter. The Chinook flew at a distance of only twenty meters along me at a maximum height of three meters above the ground. The light was perfect. The Chinook was highlighted from the right angle and the loadmaster was hanging out the side door of the helicopter. During the pass, we had a greeting from the loadmaster who was hanging out of this heavy helicopter. This complete scenario was practiced for three times. During the last landing the Chinook appeared from a different direction. This brought me different pictures compared with previous situations. The exercise was over for today after the seventh landing. It was a successful start of the year 2011 for me with a number of spectacular action photos.

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