International troops arrive for EU Battlegroup

Hundreds of German, Austrian and Finnish military personnel and vehicles have arrived in the Netherlands for the exercise European Rhino 1, which started on Thursday 30 September in Oirschot and northern Belgium. During this large-scale exercise, the international units will be coordinating their operations for their collective participation in the EU Battlegroup, to be ready for deployment on 1 January 2011.

Hundreds of German, Austrian and Finnish military personnel and vehicles have arrived in the Netherlands for the exercise European Rhino 1, which started on Thursday 30 September in Oirschot and northern Belgium. During this large-scale exercise, the international units will be coordinating their operations for their collective participation in the EU Battlegroup, to be ready for deployment on 1 January 2011.

The 1,600-plus troops participating in European Rhino 1 will be operating with some 450 military vehicles. In the coming two weeks, the troops have the task of supporting the government of ‘Blueland’ in restoring and maintaining order. This fictional country, situated for convenience in northern Belgium, is suffering from serious ethnic tensions between a ruling minority and the other ethnic groups.

Stabilisation force

The first task of the troops, when they enter Blueland tomorrow, will be to separate the warring factions, if necessary by force. The next priority is to provide refugees with humanitarian assistance.

Their deployment as an initial entry force is the main reason why the European Union Battlegroup concept was conceived. The Battlegroup is the first unit to respond to crisis situations the world over. Subsequently, other units and humanitarian organisations have the chance to do their work.

In addition to training for the forthcoming EU Battlegroup task, European Rhino 1 forms the certification exercise for 12 Infantry Battalion of 11 Airmobile Brigade. The exercise enables the battalion to show whether or not it can meet international standards. The exercise is being held from 30 September to 8 October in the Belgian-Dutch triangle formed by Oirschot, Brasschaat and Maasmechelen. Members of the public may encounter heavy equipment such as German Boxer armoured vehicles and Austrian Pandur armoured vehicles in this area.

Dutch command

During the first six months of 2011, the EU Battlegroup will be under Dutch command. The Netherlands is supplying 1,200 military personnel, mainly from 13 Mechanised Brigade. Brigadier General Michiel van der Laan will be its commander. The unit comprises about 2350 military personnel who, apart from the Netherlands, come from Germany, Finland, Lithuania and Austria as well.