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NEWS | Aug. 2, 2022

Dutch Wrap up 32 Years of Flying with Tucson Air Guard

By Maj. Angela Walz, 162nd Wing

MORRIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz. – 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 July 29, 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.”

The Dutch were the first in a long line of foreign partners to train at Morris ANG Base, 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.”

The RNLAF is transitioning from the F-16 to the F-35. Luijsterburg has already assumed command of the Dutch F-35 detachment at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and has been acting as dual commander of both detachments. 

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. 

There is also a Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program that was established more than 25 years ago. It now includes 85 National Guard partnerships with 93 nations.

“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 the event indicated the 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.