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Crazy Trip 2009

From May 07 until May 15, 2009, the Belgium exercise 'Crazy Trip 2009' took place in the northern part of the Netherlands. Crazy Trip is a large scale operation with 1200 Belgium military personnel involved. The aim is to exercise the evacuation of civilians (“Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO)”) from hostile areas. In the past, the Belgium armed forces performed real evacuations when Belgium and other European civilians were evacuated from the former Belgium colony Congo in Africa.

All 4 components of the Belgium armed forces participated in this exercise: the Air component (Air force), the Ground component (Army), the Sea component (Navy) and the Medical component.

As an airlift element had to be incorporated in this exercise, the northern part of the Netherlands was the operational location of ‘Crazy Trip 2009’. In the city of Den Helder (in the northern province of the Netherlands) there were civilians living, which needed to be evacuated from a ‘war-zone’. Den Helder is the main base of the Royal Dutch Navy (“Koninklijke Marine”) and it has a nearby airfield, “De Kooij”.

This NEO-exercise 'Crazy Trip 2009' consisted of 4 phases.

Preparation phase

First is the preparation phase, whereby the stand-by units receive their order to prepare for an evacuation. The Belgium Armed forces have some units on stand-by for these kinds of operations. Within a few days, all preparations were finished and the next phase of the exercise could start, the deployment phase.

Deployment phase

During the deployment phase, all necessary equipment, boats, weapons, vehicles and soldiers will be airlifted to an airbase in a ‘friendly country’, close to the area were the civilians are in danger. The airbase at the beginning of the airlift was the military airbase of Melsbroek, attached to the Brussels main airport. Melsbroek is the homebase of the Belgium fleet of transport aircraft. As airbase in a ‘friendly country’, the Dutch airbase of Leeuwarden was selected. With the help of a Dutch Airforce KDC-10 transport aircraft, several Belgium Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft flew continuously cargo missions between Melsbroek and Leeuwarden for some days, to build-up an evacuation force at Leeuwarden airbase.

Evacuation phase

One week after the exercise kick-off, the deployment phase was finished and the next phase (the evacuation phase) could start. Besides the Belgium C-130’s, 4 Agusta A109BA helicopters of the Belgium ground forces were used as flying assets.

Redeployment phase

After the evacuation of the last civilians the final phase will start, the redeployment phase; whereby all soldiers and material will be transported back to Belgium.

The evacuation
As start of the real evacuation phase, paratroopers and amphibious forces were sent into the hostile area. Their task was to free hostages at the nearby island of Texel, attack several enemy strongpoints, ‘liberate’ the city of Den Helder and to secure an airfield in the hostile area. This airfield was the naval airbase “MVK De Kooij” (MarineVliegKamp ‘De Kooij’), close to the city of Den Helder. An amphibious assault was performed with the use of a Dutch Marine Corps landingcraft, escorted by Belgium Zodiacs.

During the second week of the exercise, the real evacuation went into action. The C-130’s flew continuously between Leeuwarden en De Kooij, bringing in troops and material into the ‘liberated zone’, and taking out the civilians. On all strategic points in the city of Den Helder, armed Belgium soldiers could be found, securing the town. In the canals of Den Helder, Zodiacs patrolled the waterfront.

The civilians were transported first to a central point, from where they were transported to the airfield. During the transportation of the civilians from the central point to the airfield, they were protected by Belgium and Dutch paratroopers. Armored jeeps and trucks guarded the convoys of civilians. On the route to the airport, the convoy was stopped by some unarmed civilians (‘hooligans’ or ‘bad guys’), who demanded the retreat of the soldiers. The hooligans could not be stopped by military force, so the soldiers had to find other ways to cope with that. Solving this non-military threat, the group had to leave the safety of the vehicles, by continuing the trip by foot. As a second threat, the group was attacked by armed military forces. Gunfire (using ‘blank rounds’) was exchanged with the attacking forces, using medium and heavy machine-guns. Eventually the attackers withdrew and the trip to the airbase continued. On the ‘De Kooij’ airbase, the civilians were airlifted by a C-130 Hercules to a safe location at the Leeuwarden airbase. During the clashes with the ‘hooligans’ and the armed forces, somebody got wounded. This wounded man was transported to safety by an Agusta 109 helicopter.

The active participants in the Crazy Trip exercise were
• McDonnelDouglas KDC-10 of the Dutch “Koninklijke Luchtmacht” (Royal Dutch Air Force), transporting men and material from Brussels to Leeuwarden
• F-16’s van de Dutch “Koninklijke Luchtmacht” protecting the slow-moving C-130 Hercules and delivering ‘Close Air Support’ (CAS).
• 100 soldiers of the Dutch 11th AIR MANOEUVRE BRIGADE (“11e LuchtMobiele Brigade”), protecting the civilians on the ground
• 3 Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft of the Belgium Aircomponent (Air Force), transporting men and material between Brussels, Leeuwarden and De Kooij
• 1 Airbus A310 transport aircraft of the Belgium Aircomponent (Air Force), transporting men and material between Brussels and Leeuwarden.
• 4 Agusta AW109 BA helicopters of the Belgium Groundcomponent (Army), transporting personnel between Leeuwarden and De Kooij, flying MEDEVAC flights.
• F-16’s of the Aircomponent (Air Force), for slow-mover protection and CAS
• About 1200 Belgische military personnel , consisting of 4 de components (Amy, Airforce, Navy and medical Component), the majority was supplied by 700 paracommandos of the Immediate Reaction Capability-Regiment Paracommando’s, the 2nd battalion Paracommando’s based in Flawinne
• A mobile hospital was deployed by the Belgium Medicalcomponent
• As ‘bad guys’ some 150 Belgium and 30 Dutch soldiers played a realistic role in this exercise.
• 50 Belgium observers assessed the exercise

During the exercise some incidents occurred.
• One night some ‘blank rounds’ were fired close to a nursing home for elderly people, which caused some small disturbances.
• A larger incident took place when some ‘blank rounds’ remained on the streets of Den Helder, after a gunfight with ‘the enemy’. Not only empty shell remained on the ground, also unused ‘blank rounds’ remained. Playing children collected these empty shells and unused ‘blank rounds’, which caused a small uprise in the Den Helder city council.

All photo's:
G.J.A. van Boven
H.P.A.M van Eupen
© Sentry Aviation News

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