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Training with Joint Task Forces; Gilze-Rijen, May 31, 2018

The APROC Course 2018, part 4; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Since the EPRC organization began the training of Personnel Recovery in 2007, a lot has changed. The organization has grown over the years into a mature organization. The European countries participating in the APROC no longer depend on third parties such as the United States for these types of PR missions.

After the composition of a TF has been described by Holewijn, he introduces the participants of the APROC 2018. Bart indicates that the vast majority of the participants consists of the so-called Recovery Vehicles (RV) in the form of transport helicopters. The Royal Netherlands Air Force delivers an RV in with a Chinook helicopter from the 298 Squadron. Spain also supplies one helicopter, because Ala 48 from Cuatro-Vientos near Madrid is involved in the APROC with an AS332 Super Puma as RV. The French Navy also provides an RV during the course. The French participate with a NH90NFH Caiman from the 33 Flottille from Lanvéoc/Poulmic. The Italian Air Force supplies an HH101 Caesar helicopter which can be recognized by its black color scheme. This characteristic helicopter is assigned to the 15° Stormo at Gioia del Colle. The Italian Navy also supplies a UH101 Merlin as RV during the APROC. This helicopter is from the 1° Grupelicot from Sarzana. The British Navy is flying with two EH101 Merlins from the 845 NAS from Yeovilton. Finally, the Swedish RV participation consists of an UH-60 Blackhawk from Linköping/Malmen. In addition to these RV participants, Rotary Wing RESCORTS (RW) are also involved in the APROC. The Dutch RWs consist of two Apache helicopters of the 301 Squadron. The Poles supply two Mi-24 "Hind" helicopters from Inowrocław for the RW role. Finally, there are also two AS555AN Fennic helicopters from France in the RW role from Orange. The Fighter RESCORT (FW) will consist of three EF2000 Eurofighters from the 4° Stormo from Grosseto. Two F-16s also fly from the Netherlands from Volkel Air Base; these aircraft are assigned to the 312 Squadron. The mission is coordinated by an E-3 Sentry from NATO and an E-550 CAEW from Italy.

Bart Holewijn indicates that in addition to all these flying participants, five Extraction Forces participate in the APROC. The soldiers who will take responsibility for the action on the ground are from France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Sweden. A total

of 547 participants will participate in this edition of the APROC, of which 186 belonged to the main audience of the exercise. This means that there are about two supporting persons available for each participant in the APROC, according to Holewijn. During an APROC mission, a Task Force will have to rescue a person or several persons from an isolated situation in the designated landing zone. The structure of the training varies from simple PR missions to complex scenarios where real war scenarios are conducted according to Holewijn. At the beginning of the APROC, the resistance will be minimal. There will at most be some angry citizens who will chase the EF during their extraction. As the course progresses, these people will throw sand and later, armed citizens will walk around in the grounds. Another phase later, there will be armed militias walking around and eventually a small enemy army must be eliminated to save the isolated persons. According to Bart Holewijn, in all these scenarios different rules of engagement apply which have to be assessed by the rescue mission commanders. Different rules apply internationally to dealing with citizens or soldiers.

Every day, three Task Forces go on mission from Gilze-Rijen. There are three directions in the area around Gilze-Rijen where helicopters can practice. These areas consist of a north-eastern zone, a south-eastern zone and a south-western zone which is located in Belgium. The north-eastern zone consists of three landing areas in Gelderland, namely the Leusderheide, the Stroezand and the Ederheide. In this area the FARP is located at Deelen Air Base where the helicopters will make a stop every day as part of the exercise. The south-eastern zone is located in the province of Limburg. The TFs will land there in the Crayelheide, the Weerterheide and the Kruispeel areas. The FARP in the southeastern zone is located at Volkel Air Base. Finally, the south-western zone in Belgium consists of the landing areas in Ursel, Zoersel and Leopoldsburg. The FARP in this area is located at Woensdrecht Air Base. During the flight the helicopters fly a route where they will fly about 200km before they arrive in their target area according to Holewijn. All missions would be flown in the afternoon hours between 1400 and 1700. The three Task Forces would depart daily from Gilze-Rijen with an interval of 20 minutes. During the APROC it is the intention that the Task Force will be assembled entirely randomly.

During the last extraction training Lieutenant-Colonel Bart Holewijn himself also participated in the mission at the Ederheide. Together with deputy Commander of the Armed Forces Lieutenant General Martin Wijnen, he played the role of the person who became isolated in a hostile area. During the execution of the mission they were eventually rescued by Italian Extraction Forces who got the situation under control after a fierce resistance. Bart Holewijn indicated that at the end of the course a so-called "Hot Wash" is held in which the entire course is briefly evaluated and adjusted where necessary. For this final evaluation, all mission commanders are sitting together and all aspects which went good and wrong are evaluated. It is the intention that the course will be offered in the same way in subsequent editions including the lessons learned from previous editions. Well after the course at the headquarters in Italy, the APROC will once again evaluated extensively. After more than two weeks of intensive training, the APROC came to an end on June 6. The participants have been prepared with this intensive course for the real recover work to rescue people who have become isolated behind the enemy lines. The slogan of the EPRC is therefore entitled "That Others May Live", because all these crews are committed to the safety of all soldiers and citizens of the European Union and its partners. Next year the APROC will take place in Spain at Zaragoza and a new group of soldiers will be trained in the art that is called Personnel Recovery.




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