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Dutch air chief predicts continued cooperation

  • Published
  • By Michael Briggs
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
His air force has a pilot training history in the United States that dates back to 1941. It's a long relationship Lt. Gen. Hans de Jong would like to continue.

General de Jong, commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, said he expects his country to not only maintain its aircrew training programs in the United States but to perhaps expand them.

He made his remarks during a March 9-13 visit to Air Education and Training Command here.

The Netherlands first established a training partnership with the United States during World War II after Adolf Hitler's blitzkrieg nearly wiped out the Dutch air force. In 1941, the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School was reestablished at Jackson Field in Jackson, Miss.

That school has long since closed, but the RNAF still trains pilots in the United States today in the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program at Sheppard AFB, Texas. General de Jong began his visit to AETC by attending an ENJJPT graduation at which four Dutch pilots received their wings.

The general said he wants to see what other U.S. training and education programs might benefit his air force.

In addition to attending the ENJJPT graduation, The Netherlands' top airman spent time looking at training programs here at the 12th Flying Training Wing and at Lackland AFB at the 37th Training Wing.

He also took a trip to Nashville to study the prospect of his country taking part in an international C-130 aircrew training program conducted by the 118th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard.

General de Jong said it makes sense to expand training and cooperation in areas of mutual interest to both nations, especially since the majority of the RNAF fleet is comprised of aircraft manufactured in the United States, such as the C-130, F-16, and Apache and Chinook helicopters.

"If you have the same aircraft (models), you share a lot of the same things like training pilots and technicians and standardization of programs, which forms the technical part of our air force-to-air force cooperation," the general said. "Another thing, of course, with Holland is that we have a strong transatlantic relationship, so within the European Union and NATO we will be seeing a lot more transatlantic cooperation."

Such cooperation, as in the case of the RNAF's five-year participation in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, comes directly from The Netherlands' constitution, he said.

"Our constitution says we will help other countries bring democracy forward," General de Jong said. "Our government believes we should support a coalition that is fighting a worthy cause."

He said determining future training and operational missions for the RNAF is difficult. He was working in his air force's plans and policy division when the wall came down in Berlin in 1989, signaling the end of the Soviet empire.

"At the time, we were trying to determine what things our Air Force would do in the future," General de Jong said. "No one then thought we would be in Afghanistan and your Air Force would be in Iraq today, so it's really difficult to see."

No matter what the future missions of his air force, the general said he knows the RNAF would not go it alone

"We will continue with our partners in NATO and EU to safeguard our own cultures and to safeguard peace and prosperity in the world," General de Jong said.
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