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The Objectives of the Task Force; Gilze-Rijen, May 31, 2018

The APROC Course 2018, part 3; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

During the APROC, military personnel from different disciplines such as fighter pilots, helicopter pilots and soldiers from the extraction forces will work closely together. The APROC course starts with simple scenarios and will build up through the course to complex scenarios where cooperation is a crucial element for success.

The EPRC was created to assist the countries of the European Union and NATO in educating and training military personnel who are able to retrieve their personnel from isolation. The mission of the EPRC is to standardize the concept of Personnel Recovery by drawing up concepts and doctrines. Continuous improvement of the PR concepts consists of four phases which are continuously applied. These phases, are; preparation, planning, execution and adjustment. According to Bart Holewijn, the EPRC ensures that partner countries receive support in training for their staff by offering them training exercises and operations as established by the countries. The ultimate goal is that the soldiers of all countries proceed in a standardized way of working. This allows the EPRC to work faster, more efficiently and more safe. All these aspects will benefits the degree of success in an operation in a war zone. The success rate and the speed with which an action is carried is drastically increased, according to Holewijn. The organization of the EPRC is made up of staff from all seven partner countries on different positions. The chair position of the EPRC rotates every few years. Now the EPRC has an Italian colonel as commander, later in the year a German commander will take over his position. According to Bart Holewijn, it is therefore a matter of time before all countries have had the command over the organization. In total, the organization consists of fifteen positions each with their own function. The organization is supported by four Italian Host Nation Support positions.

The main course offered by the EPRC is of course the APROC (Air-centric Personnel Recovery Operatives Course). As the name air-centric indicates, the course focuses only on PR with the help of helicopters. Holewijn indicates that there are many more ways to implement PR alongside the air-centric section. Some examples of other methods of PR are the use of armored vehicles, Special Forces and even submarines. All these ways of PR can be trained by a country at national level. According to Bart,

things are completely different when it comes to extraction with helicopters. According to him, this can only happen if you train together in a multinational environment. He compares PR with helicopters as a big puzzle. All countries have pieces of the puzzle in their possession, but no country possesses all the means to complete the entire puzzle on its own. For this reason, the countries must join forces to make this way of PR possible. This way of PR is cheap and effective. It would be virtually unaffordable for every country to implement PR with helicopters at national level. The focus of the APROC course is on the multinational performance of all PR Task Forces. In addition, the focus is also on following the process whereby the prescribed procedures must be closely monitored. Mistakes which are made during planning are immediately visible at the actual execution of the mission.

The main goal of the air-centric course is to teach and train helicopter crews with little or no experience. This group is mainly trained in planning and executing complex missions based on a PR scenario. The complexity is in the multinational context and the cooperation with helicopters of a different type from other countries. A second goal is to train the experienced pilots to Rescue Mission Commander (RMC). This is achieved by giving this group the lead over the implementation of these complex missions. The experienced pilots must also brief the task force and report to the higher command after the mission. Also the training of the Extraction Forces (EF) on the ground is a main goal of the course. The training of the EF emphasizes leadership, with full participation in the planning of the missions during a PR scenario. Cooperation between the different pilots of fighter planes, helicopters and the commanders of the EF is a challenge, because all these parties must come to a plan together to carry out the mission successfully. This seems simple, but in practice one discovers that these parties all speak a different language and apply different disciplines. The secondary goal of the APROC is to train the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) crews to coordinate the mission. Also the crew of the Rescue Escort (RESCORT) are trained as the On Scene Commander (ONC). The ONCs are the pilots of the fighter planes during the APROC which keep the overview during the entire extraction. Finally, the EF are also trained to provide medical care in the field to the victims who are being rescued.

During the APROC, the daily flight program will consist of three Task Forces (TF). These TFs are made up of a number of parts which each have their own role in the mission. Each TF consists of two Recovery Vehicles (RV). These vehicles are two transport helicopters which are used to transport soldiers and are used for MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation). The TF also has a transport helicopter with the EF on board. The transport helicopters are protected during their flight and the on-scene landings by two Rotary Wing RESCORT assets. These RESCORT's are two attack helicopters which will secure the landing area for the transport helicopters. Finally, the TF consists of two Fixed Wing RESCORTs. This group consists of two fighter planes which fly high above the stage as observers. These aircraft can also be used in the CAS (Close Air Support) role if necessary. In addition to these three TFs, there are also a number of support units which will support an APROC mission. The first is the Airborne Mission Command post, which is usually an AEW aircraft which has control over the entire operation. On the ground, a GBAD threat simulator will be added to the course, which makes the training realistic. On the ground there will be three Ground OPFOR (Opposition Forces) active around the landing areas. These units will make it difficult for the extraction forces during the PR mission. During the missions a total of three FARPs (Forward Arming and Refueling Point) are active, with each TF being assigned to its own FARP.

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