Active Trip 2012The Belgian Armed Forces have an additional task besides defending the country. There is always (24/7) a unit standby for Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO). In case of a civil war or a catastrophy abroad, this unit must be 'ready to go' within 24 hours after a political decision to evacuate Belgian civilians abroad. Last decades, there were many evacuations in the world due to (civil) wars (Zaire, Rwanda, Congo, Lebanon) and in 2010 the last evacuation took place after the earthquake in Haiti.
ScenarioThe scenario is quite simple, establish a safe airfield in a friendly country close to the operation area and airlift all needed equipment and soldiers to this safe airbase. Then secure an airfield in the hostile area and airlift an expeditionary force into this hostile area. The expeditionary force has the task to collect the civilians at various reception centres and bring them to the secured airfield and fly them back to the safe airbase nearby. Followed by their own withdrawal by air, whereby the expeditionary force must be gone 72 hours after the first touchdown in the hostile area. From the safe airfield in the friendly country, all equipment, soldiers and civilians will be airlifted back to Belgium. After a NEO exercise in the Netherlands in 2009 (Crazy Trip), in 2012 the NEO exercise took place completely in Belgium as 'Active Trip 2012'. Active Trip 2012 Starting with a media briefing by the Belgian minister of Defence 'Pieter De Crem' at Antwerpenairport, the exercise was explained by LtCol Van Lembergen on May 08th.Supposed to be 4000 km away, the safe airbase was located at Florennes (ICAO: EBFS) in the fictitious frienldy country named 'Gondur'. The country where the civilians had to be evacuated from, was named 'Baltonia', with 3 airports in a hostile environment. The civil airport of Antwerpen (ICAO:EBAW), the reserve base of Weelde (ICAO:EBWE) were paradroppings took place and the main base of the exercise, the reserve base of Zoersel (ICAO:EBZR). At the civil airport of Antwerpen, 2 Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft landed at night to deliver soldiers and after landing the soldiers went towards the Zoersel area.
ParticipantsMore than 1000 soldiers from Belgium (paratroopers from the Land Component, medical soldiers from the Medical Component and pilots/mechanics from the Air Component) and 130 French paratroopers were the expeditionary force. As realistic civilians, some 600 volunteers were recruited to be a role-player for a day. Instead of the usual young men in their 20's (soldiers dressed in civilian clothes), old people, women and children were amongst the role-players. Some people were painted with fake injuries hamper their evacuations due to their injuries. A temporary Belgium embassy was set up, with an 'ambassador' and a diplomatic crew to control and check the flow of civilians.
ZoerselAt Zoersel airbase, there was a continuous flow of Belgian C-130 aircraft, during the first stage they delivered the expeditionary force, including a field hospital, and during the last stage they brought back civilians, troops and equipment. The civilians were flown to Florennes and were brought back home by buses afterwards. As Zoersel is a nearly deserted reserve base for Belgian fighter aircraft, there is hardly any infrastructure on the base. No control tower, no large parking aprons, only a few small hangars for the local flying club. The C-130 aircraft had to park half on the taxiways and half on the runways, which would limit the flying activities if more than 1 C-130 would show up at th Zoersel airport.
Thanks to Belgian Army and Defense for their support in this exercise.
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