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Dutch relinquishes NATO mission to Spanish allies

The Spanish Patriot Unit officially replaced the 1st Netherlands Ballistic Missile Defense Task Force during a change of responsibility ceremony for Operation Active Fence Jan. 26, here.

Operation Active Fence is part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization patriot missile support deployment, which includes the missile batteries operated by the U.S. and Germany located respectively in two other areas within Turkey: Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras.

For the last two years, the Dutch has provided air defense for the city of Adana by constantly maintaining and monitoring two patriot missile batteries located at Incirlik Air Base and near the Adana airport.

"The switch between the Dutch and the Spanish means that the NATO mission can continue to protect the citizens of Turkey and augment an already strong Turkish air defense system," said Army Lt. Col. Robert Phillips, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and NATO Allied Command Operations Public Affairs media operations desk officer.

According to Phillips, the most important aspect of the mission is the NATO allies who stepped up to support Turkey.

"Turkey identified a specific threat and it needed some augmentation, so it asked other nations to support this and other nations responded," said Phillips. "Initially it was the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands, but now the Netherlands are returning home and Spain has stepped up to continue on with the mission."

As out-going commander, Col. Niels Vredegoor, 1st Netherlands Ballistic Missile Defense Task Force commander, talked about the Dutch's time at Incirlik and welcomed the incoming Spanish unit.

"These past two years proved to be highly successful for two reasons: First of all, no missiles were fired into NATO territory and secondly, it shows a strong NATO; in commitment, in partnership and capability," he said.

In January 2013, the Dutch joined the U.S and Germany, both of which had already deployed patriot missile batteries to help bolster security along Turkey's border with Syria. These combined efforts were in response to an air defense assistance request from the Turkish government.

According to Vredegoor, the mission success is due in large part to all allies involved and that the Spanish will add to the overall successful efforts of the mission.

"This allied multinational effort was and will be the key to success," said Vredegoor. "We are leaving this team and I have no doubt that Spain will fit into the system like a glove."

With Vredegoor's role with the Incirlik patriot missile mission complete, the Dutch National Anthem played as the nation's flag lowered in respect of the service performed by the Dutch during their deployment. To commemorate the 1st Netherlands Ballistic Missile Defense Task Forces' service, Vredegoor was presented his nation's flag before bestowing the NATO flag to CDR. Jorge Cotorruelo, Spanish Patriot Unit commander.

In receiving the NATO flag, Cotorruelo assumed responsibility of the patriot missile mission, which was signified by the playing of the Spanish National Anthem and raising of the nation's flag.

As incoming commander, Cotorruelo thanked the Dutch for their service at Incirlik and Turkey for their support.

"I would like to thank my predecessor, Col. Vredegoor for his continuous work and continued success," Cotorruelo said. I also want to thank the Turkish armed forces for their great support.

In recognition of his service, Gen. Adem HUDUTI, 2nd Army commander, presented Vredegoor with a Decoration of Merit on behalf of the commander of the Turkish armed forces and thanked all members of the 1st Netherlands Ballistic Missile Defense Task Force.

"On behalf of the commander of the Turkish Armed Forces, I would like to thank the outgoing Col. Vredegoor and his soldiers for their sincere support and for the countries support of the mission," said HUDUTI. You have represented your country in an excellent manner."

According to HUDUTI, the people of Turkey are thankful for the support of the Spanish.

"Spain's concrete demonstration of alliance solidarity is critically important to the people of Turkey and for all members of the alliance," he said. "We are grateful for your willingness and decision to contribute to this mission at a very critical point."

For the next two years, the Spanish will continue the legacy left behind by the Dutch -- a dedication and commitment to protecting Turkey and its NATO allies from any threat that require air defense.

[Source: By Senior Airman Michael Battles, 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, US Air Forces in Europa, Air Forces Africa, 27Jan15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 30Jan15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.