U.S. and Dutch dignitaries, and Air National Guard Airmen and Royal Netherlands Air Force personnel celebrated the end of an era as the RNLAF landed their last F-16 at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Ariz., July, 20222, culminating a 32-year international training relationship.
“Arizona has developed an ever-lasting relationship with the Netherlands that will continue to strengthen interoperability between the United States and foreign partner nations across the globe,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Butler, 162nd Wing Commander. “This has been a partnership that extends beyond any other witnessed in National Guard history,” he said.
The Dutch were the first in a long line of foreign partners to train at Morris ANGB, flying an average of 2,000 hours per year in the F-16 and graduating four student pilots every nine months as part of the 148th Fighter Squadron.
“I was a student in the 148th Fighter Squadron in 1991,” said Lt. Col. Joost Luijsterburg, RNLAF detachment commander. “That was 31 years ago and now I’m going to close this unit … It is the end of an era,” he said. Luijsterburg has already assumed command of the Dutch F-35 detachment at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and has been acting as dual commander of both detachments. The RNLAF has commenced transition from the F-16 to the F-35.
The international training relationship between the Tucson Guard and the Dutch is a prime example of effective diplomacy that can occur at the state level. In fact, the National Guard instituted a State Partnership Program more than 25 years ago, which now includes 85 partnerships with 93 nations around the globe. Through SPP, the National Guard conducts military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals but also leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.
“The National Guard has a vested interest in growing its partnerships with foreign countries, and we do that better than anyone else, right here in Tucson, Arizona,” said Butler. “Our international training mission provides expertly trained coalition war-fighting partners for the United States and our NATO allies — and that is both necessary and reassuring in today’s environment.”
The long list of foreign and domestic distinguished visitors at today’s event is an indication of importance of this bilateral arrangement. Guests included: Brig. Gen. Allison Miller, representing Lt. Gen. Michael Loh and the Office of the Director, Air National Guard; Maj. Gen. Phil Purcell, Arizona Air National Guard Air Component Commander; Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Butler, 162nd Wing Commander; Lt. Gen. Dennis Luyt, Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force; Consul General Dirk Janssen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Rear Admiral Sebo Hofkamp, Defense Attaché of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; and Brig. Gen. Bert ‘Vidal de Smit, Director of Operations of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.