Brunssum, the Netherlands - One of the benefits of working with the international partners at the JFC Brunssum is the opportunity to participate in a foreign military training events and firing ranges. Every year, numerous JFCBS service members participate in the Nijmegen Four Day Marches, earn German Armed Forces Proficiency Badges, U.S. Army marksmanship badges, and other awards and decorations. These events not only physically challenge the participating individuals, but also broaden their horizons, teach them new skills, expand interoperability between nations, and create friendships that last the lifetime. The Dutch Two-day Military Performance Trials (TMPT) is one of such military events that not only checks the participants’ physical and tactical proficiency, but also teamwork and resilience.
This May, nine JFCBS and one SHAPE soldiers and sailors formed five buddy teams and represented NATO at the 69th Dutch Two-day Military Performance Trials (TMPT). TMPT is conducted annually by the Royal Netherlands Association of Reserve Officers and the Physical Training & Sports Organization of the Royal Netherlands Army. The event is open for all professional and reserve military personnel from all armed forces services, to include foreign nations. It takes place at and around the Harskamp Barracks, in a very scenic part of the province of Gelderland, Netherlands. Successful completion of the Trials entitles competitors to the Cross of the Royal Netherlands Association of Reserve Officers, the TMPT-Cross.
The TMPT originated in 1936 and evolved through the years to stay in step with current tactics and techniques. Originally, TMPT was a two day event that consisted of a 40 kilometer horseback ride, a 25 kilometer march, and a 60 kilometer bicycle ride, all while wearing battle dress and gas mask for the half an hour of each event. Shooting range culminated each day. Over the years horseback riding was replaced with a 250 kilometers motorcycle ride, and later by the 125 kilometers off-road jeep ride.
Presently, TMPT is designed as a huge, two-day circuit training exercise. It consists of 12 events that include: movement by bicycle, map reading by kayak, survival course, the Dutch national obstacle course, speedmarch (both days), land navigation in rough terrain on foot, land navigation on bicycle, throwing hand grenades, estimating distance, foot march, and shooting rifle or pistol. Distances covered by teams on some events may vary due to the route taken, but, on average, teams can cover up to 16 kilometers on foot during the land navigation event, 25 kilometers during the foot march event, and travel up to 85 kilometers on bicycle over two days. Each team received six tasks per day, and teams have 10 hours to successfully accomplish them. Failure of a task can result in a time penalty or an additional run for both members of the team. For example, consequence for missing a checkpoint during the road march is a 45 minute penalty, and hitting less than 50 percent of targets on the pistol/rifle range results in an additional 4 kilometer run. Teams that do not meet 10 hour time standard or fail more than two events are disqualified from the trial.
The following ten NATO personnel comprised five teams for the 2017 TMPT:
ADJ Ed Hoen (JENG) and LTC Eef Rovers (SHAPE, J4)
LTC Erik Warberg (JENG) and CDR Pablo Alvarez (J6)
MAJ Jorge Garcia (JENG) and CPT Pablo Samaniego (NATDEL ESP)
CPT Matvey Vikhrov (JENG) and SFC Romans Jermalonoks (JENG)
Lt Cdr Hugh Blethyn (J6) and Sqn Ldr Valerie Lomas (J6)
Under the guidance of the Adjutant Ed Hoen, who successfully completed 5 TMPTs prior to 2017, JFCBS teams participated in several training sessions to practice the Dutch national obstacle course, survival course, and hand grenade throw. ADJ Hoen, who could easily accomplish every TMPT event, demonstrated extreme level of patients while teaching, coaching, and mentoring other JFCBS teams. He displayed the wealth of knowledge of the military skills by teaching JFCBS participants not only the safest and quickest ways to accomplish each event, but also the reasoning behind the event, historical background, and tips that can be learned only through experience.
This year, 602 participants from 11 nations partook in the TMPT. Majority (524) of participants were from the Dutch Armed Forces, 32 were from Germany, 32 were from Denmark, 4 from Belgium, 3 from Spain, 2 from United Kingdom, 1 from Estonia, 1 from Sweden, 1 from Norway, 1 from USA, and 1 from Latvia.
SFC Romans Jermalonoks was the first ever Latvian service member to participate in the trial. "It is a great honor to represent my home country and JFCBS at this event. The Dutch Armed Forces did an excellent job with organization and execution of the event. The key to our team’s success was that my partner and I kept motivating and helping each other, which was a force multiplier at times of physical exhaustion.” Jermalonoks stated after receiving his well-earned TMPT-Cross.
After first day, 27.9 percent of teams failed to meet the standard to continue the event. The second day claimed another 4.6 percent of teams. This high attrition rate resulted in only 67.5 percent of teams successfully completing TMPT and earning the coveted TMPT-Cross. LTC (Ret.) Maarten Peeters, the Chairman of the TMPT, stated that "the number of successful candidates [in 2017] is representative of the past few years”.
As a proof to ADJ Hoen’s dedication, 4 out of 5 JFCBS teams succeeded in achieving the TMPT standard and earned the TMPT-cross. Like many other Military competitions, trials, and schools, individual TMPT events are not necessarily hard but combination of the events and fast-paced environment contribute to the decrease of performance and increase of the number of mistakes that can jeopardize the successful accomplishment of the TMPT. Also, like many other Military events, the participation in the TMPT is fun but challenging, and, as the pain leaves the body, only the positive memories of the event remain in participants’ minds.
An assignment to the JFCBS, as well to other NATO units, can be a very busy time in a service member’s life. It gives an opportunity for a service member and his/her family to travel, experience different cultures and foods, and well as work in a unique fast-paced international environment. Allocating time for foreign military and civilian events only enhances the experience of serving in NATO and supports the "Stronger Together” motto.
Story by Sqn Ldr Valerie Lomas