37th Airlift Squadron, Movement Coordination Centre Europe team up to support Dutch paratroopers

Paratroopers from the Royal Army of the Netherlands complete an airborne operation as part of their winter training exercises in Sweden. The Dutch paratroopers jumped from a U.S. C-130 assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Peter Lankreijer)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Airmen from the 37th Airlift Squadron helped the Royal Army of the Netherlands finish their winter training exercises and conduct airborne operations March 6-7 in Sweden.

What may have seemed like a routine training mission was actually a significant first of its kind. This mission was the also the first Department of Defense, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Air Forces in Europe supported intra-theater multinational coordinated air transport mission through the Movement Coordination Centre Europe in the process.

The MCCE is a multinational military organization based at Eindhoven Air Base, the Netherlands, formed to help solve NATO identified European shortages in lack of strategic transportation assets and the ability to coordinate, and use more effectively and efficiently, the assets they do have.

"This was a parachute operations request from the Royal Army of the Netherlands for their winter training exercise in Sweden," said U.S. Army Maj. Jeremy Baran, U.S. Liaison Officer to the MCCE. "The Dutch didn't have an aircraft, specifically a C-130, they could use to perform their jumps, so they contacted the MCCE Air Transport cell and made a request for assistance."

These types of requests are common and occur daily from any of the 23-member nations of the coordination center, according to the major. Once the MCCE Air Transport cell received the request, they sent it to the member nations asking for assistance and Major Baran contacted the 603rd Air Mobility Division and USAFE for assistance. When USAFE answered that they could support, they began planning the mission.

"This is the first time that USAFE participated in an actual executed mission," Baran said. "They have been asked a couple of times for support, but unfortunately there was never a match made between the requesting nation and the United States."

Supporting operations such as this has numerous benefits for the 23-member nations.

"It is an excellent example of national partnerships being in place to support each other at critical moments," said Lt. Col. Richard Clark, USAFE MCCE coordinator. "Airlift and air refueling capabilities are expensive enterprises and each nation, including the United States, attempts to optimize their force to meet their expected requirements."

Having the ability to request additional capability from your neighbors during surge operations, or to account for unexpected shortfalls, can mean the difference between successful missions and cancelled events, according to Clark.

"This mission was very successful, and even though it was cold, we were able to get the drops off for the Dutch training to be successful," said Maj. Christopher Spangenberg, 86th Operational Support Squadron Chief of Current Operations. "This was a very important mission because it shows our interoperability with our NATO partners, and our mutual support between countries."

The MCCE has created a virtual monetary exchange system that allows a nation to join with, or without, any aircraft, and allows them access to the entire pool of aircraft.

Currently, there are 33 different types of aircraft and 376 total assets available for coordination.

Since this system has been in place, the MCCE has coordinated approximately 19,000 equivalent flight hours, which equates to four C-130s flying full time.

"From a U.S. perspective, this is an incredible opportunity for engagement and relationship building," said Baran. "One thing I've learned from my time at the MCCE is that logistics, and more importantly, international logistics is a relationship business and without the relationship, moving strategically is a huge challenge."

Since the United States joined the organization with a jointly signed agreement between EUCOM and U.S. Transportation Command in August 2008, the U.S. liaison officer has been working with EUCOM, USTRANSCOM, and other subordinate commands to develop the concept of operations to be used within the framework of the MCCE for U.S. participation.

This participation has much larger implications though, because it could also be adopted in the Defense Transportation Regulation to help close the gap in guidance on how to move coalition or multinational cargo with DoD provided strategic or operational transportation assets.

"Now that we have proven we can crawl, we can start to look for other opportunities," Baran said. "This was truly a multinationally coordinated mission. The Dutch were the requestors, and because they were jumping with Belgian parachutes, a C-130 was required. The United States via USAFE and the 37th AS provided the C-130 for the operation in Sweden, and as a result, the Dutch were able to finish their winter training exercises and conduct their airborne operations."

With requests for support becoming a daily occurrence and the ability of units like the 37th AS to provide support when others cannot, these missions may become more common. And, with increased cooperation, the relationships between the United States and its international partners will continually improve.

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