Italians, Dutch Provide Air Base Security
By Staff Sgt. Ward Gros, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
TALLIL AIR BASE, Iraq, Aug. 28, 2003 Troops from the 28 countries that have committed forces to support the international coalition in Iraq have begun assuming more and more duties. Dutch and Italian forces are working together to provide internal airfield security at this air base in southern Iraq.
The Dutch conduct roving patrols, while the Italians man checkpoints and provide a quick-reaction force for the airfield.
"Although we have different responsibilities, our area of responsibility is the same," said Italian Master Sgt. Gianni Pitzalis, who works in force security. The quick- reaction force responds to immediate calls, while the roving patrols conduct regular sweeps of the area. "We share the same areas, but we don't patrol together because of the language barrier," Pitzalis said.
Dutch Air Force Capt. Wim Verschragen, officer in charge of the Dutch security force, said, "Even though both the Italians and our forces speak some English, during training for emergency response the soldiers immediately began working in their own language."
As members of NATO, both Dutch and Italian soldiers follow NATO procedures. Some previously have worked with other NATO forces.
"This is my third deployment," said Dutch Army Staff Sgt. Roy Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Dutch security patrols. "In Bosnia, I worked with the English, in Kosovo the Germans, and now (in Iraq) I'm working with Americans and Italians."
Thomas and the other soldiers on the Dutch security force are members of one of Holland's oldest artillery battalions, the 11th Horse Battalion. They usually man a Palladin, a self-propelled 109 mm howitzer.
"Every deployment is different," Thomas said. "My soldiers have learned what to do for airfield security. In case of an intruder, we have a machine gun and the Italians have their machine gun. And when we catch intruders, we turn them over to the American security force."
No intruders have approached the airfield yet, and the role of the coalition force reinforces but does not duplicate security provided by Americans in the area.
"We're glad they are here," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Nollee Ciballas. "I've learned how to interact with different countries, and it's good to see America work with other nations."
In addition to providing airfield security, both Dutch and Italian forces have their own helicopters at the airfield. Their helicopter missions are similar in scope, and include medical evacuations as well as force protection and security.
"Force protection is integrated with the United States here in Tallil as well as in An Nasiriyah," said Italian helicopter pilot Capt. Sismondini Diego. "Working with the coalition is a great opportunity for all of us."
(Staff Sgt. Ward Gros is assigned to the 143rd Transportation Command in southern Iraq.)