The manning situation in the Netherlands Army fieldwork units has led to a decrease in personnel numbers and a temporary competence shortfall in the area of mechanical mine clearance. Since this is a costly system, it is essential that this competence shortfall should be corrected as quickly as possible, something that can be achieved with support from the Swedish Army Field Work School’s demining unit.
Swedish training support
The Netherlands Armed Forces are well aware of the competence in this field that exists in Sweden, both in the area of training and in international operations. Notable examples include the action in Bosnia in the summer of 2007 in which a mechanical demining platoon spent four months clearing mines in very rugged terrain with excellent results. Around 500,000 square metres were cleared. With this in view, the Netherlands therefore contacted the Swedish Armed Forces seeking support for their training in the use of the Scanjack deep mine clearing vehicle. The Netherlands group consists of four soldiers (operators), a group leader and a platoon commander. The group has brought its own Scanjack which is very similar to the machine used by the Swedish demining unit.
The training in Sweden consists essentially of:
- Theory and methods of working.
- Driving the vehicle on ordinary roads.
- Mine clearance in various types of terrain and ground conditions.
- Safety regulations for mechanical mine clearance.
- Clearing live anti-tank mines.
- Care of the equipment.
Unique training conditions
“You have everything you need here. The conditions and possibilities available in Eksjö for training with live munitions, and with the effects that this implies, as well as the range of ground conditions such as sand, stony ground, grass etc, just do not exist in the Netherlands,” says Hans Storm, leader of the Netherlands demining group. Storm also points out that The Netherlands army has been reduced since the end of the cold war. However this does not apply to the engineer function which has expanded from one regiment to three. This is due to the increased demand for engineers in international operations.
Mine clearance on a weapons range
One of the tasks they will face when they return home is to clear mines on the Air Force’s weapons range.
“The help provided by the Swedish demining platoon will be invaluable here. Both with regard to the effectiveness of the operation and to the opportunity the task provides to show people what we can do,” says Hans Storm.
He thinks that the cooperation has been excellent. It has given rise to many new ideas ranging from smart solutions to minor repair jobs to easing the complexities of international collaboration. Hans Storm hopes that in future the Netherlands will be working together with the Swedish Armed Forces in international operations where their competence and effectiveness are put to use.