300 soldiers quartered in Marche-en-Famenne prepare to leave for Romania to defend NATO

Major General Pierre Gérard, Commander of the Land Component, Major General Pierre Gérard wanted to underline the investment of his men in the preparation of this mission. They were notified on Friday, the eve of a weekend, with very short notice. The activation order arrived over the weekend. Despite these short deadlines, the first elements have already left. The rest of the battalion is preparing to be in the operational zone during the next week.

The troops sent are infantry troops. They are accompanied by staff with support functions, including logisticians.

Among the Belgian soldiers who will leave for Romania, there is Mahmoud, whom our teams met in Marche-en-Famenne before his departure. He is a 36-year-old soldier, specialized in logistical support and active in Defense for 10 years. This will be his third mission abroad, after Africa and Afghanistan. “Training for this kind of mission, we are largely prepared for it in advance. We always have a group that is ready. If we have to intervene somewhere, we are ready”he explains.

Another departing soldier, Lilan, 21, has been in the infantry for two and a half years. He says to himself “in a rather serene spirit”. “We are prepared for this kind of thing”, he said, “Every soldier waits at least once in his career to be able to leave”, he adds, even if he admits having “a bit of sadness” to leave his family behind.

Major General Pierre Gérard stresses that such a mission is the culmination of 15 months of preparation. These men were intended to intervene as part of the NATO Rapid Reaction Force. They benefited from 15 months of training, 11 periods of weeks of camps in the Czech Republic, Germany and Belgium. They were “NATO Certified” in December 2021.

Their deployment in Romania is planned for three to six months, depending on the evolution of the situation on the ground. “It’s a deterrent operation. If it works, we shouldn’t face major fights”considers Major General Pierre Gérard while acknowledging that he is “difficult to know what game we are playing in a deterrence operation”.

Belgian soldiers will have to familiarize themselves with the environment and the terrain. According to the General Staff, this can take 6 to 8 weeks. Knowing the terrain, making contacts, ensuring integration with French and Romanian units, solving operability problems will be part of the challenges to be met.

On site, it will also be a question of continuing to train.

The Minister of Defense, present in Marche-en-Famenne, this Tuesday, has already thanked the departing soldiers for their work. She said to herself “fully grateful” to their commitment. “A few months ago, we would never have thought of that,” she said, referring to this historic first for NATO. “Often, we praise the merits of the Belgian Defense, our merits are often praised to me. It gives me pleasure to be able to tell you”she said, addressing the military. “I have full confidence in your abilities. The population is behind you too”added Ludivine Dedonder.

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