When the Netherlands Detachment Tucson Arizona (NTDA) here at the 162nd Fighter Wing require a high level of professionalism in supporting their training mission, they count on the Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) in collaboration with the 148th Fighter Squadron to successfully negotiate the challenges of preparing pilots for battle.
Once a year, however, members of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) also work with Tucson Airmen to accomplish a different type of training that involves showcasing aviation power to the public: air demonstration.
From March 4 – 13 at the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, two pilots from the RNLAF F-16 Demo Team, along with maintenance, crew and avionics support from the AMU, trained for the upcoming Air Force Days, or Luchtmachtdagen, at Volkel Air Base, The Netherlands and other sites in Europe.
While most aviation enthusiasts and general spectators often associate air demos that display complex formations lasting around an hour, Lt. Col. Maurits Schonk, NDTA commander, said the Dutch demo team showcases one jet during a 10 minute show, focusing on quality – not quantity – during that brief time span.
“The whole aim of the Dutch demo team is to show the capabilities of the aircraft – flying at really low altitudes, climbing and descending really fast and making a short landing with our drag chutes,” he said.
Because of operational priorities and adverse weather conditions in his home country, Schonk wanted to facilitate demo training in Arizona, extending the RNLAF’s motto of “One Team, One Task” to his American counterparts.
The Dutch were counting on 8-10 sorties during the training, but were able to complete 15.
“Sometimes there are maintenance cancellations or unforeseen circumstances involved and we can’t get what was scheduled; but in this case, we went above and beyond and reproduced more sorties than what they asked for,” said 2nd Lt. R. Abby Scott, AMU officer-in-charge.
In recognition of the AMU’s efforts, the Dutch singled out Staff Sgt. Elaine Broacha with the Klomp Award. Named after the trademark shoe of Dutch farmers and now souvenir most often associated with The Netherlands, the Klomp Award is presented to the “top performer in the 148th Fighter Squadron in recognition of outstanding performance and dedication to duty” while making “invaluable contributions to the mission of the RNLAF.”
“Seeing her out on the flight line showed us that she’s really an Airman that takes pride in what she does,” said Adjutant Warrant Officer Danny Van Der Molen, NDTA maintenance liaison officer. “(But) the team together showed camaraderie, bonding well with the Dutch program.”