Dutch troops “lack experience” on Patriot missiles in Turkey

Dutch soldier by Patriot missile battery at the Diyarbakir military airport in southeastern Turkey, March 11, 2003

From Anthony Deutsch, Reuters:  Some of the Dutch troops due to man Patriot missile batteries on Turkey’s border with Syria are inadequately trained in the weapon systems, largely due to spending cuts, a trade union official said on Wednesday.

The Dutch Defence Ministry denied the assertion. . . .

Next month up to 360 Dutch army and air force troops will be posted on the border, near where Syrian rebels have battled government troops backed by combat jets and helicopters. . . .

"About 20 percent of those going have no experience with these systems," said Wim van den Burg, chairman of AFPM, the largest military trade union, referring to the Dutch. . . .

The Dutch merged the air force and the army last year and Defence Ministry spokesman Jos van der Leij said the army soldiers had received sufficient training for the purpose.

"We would not send out our people on a mission without proper training," he said. "The army personnel have been trained in using air defense systems. The people sitting at the controls of these systems have been trained to do that."

But Van den Burg, whose union represents roughly 25,000 Dutch personnel, said none of the army troops on the mission had actually fired a Patriot missile, unlike their air force counterparts. That has led to worries that they will not stand up to the pressure of working in a conflict zone, he said.  (photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP)

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