October 7, 2013 (by Sgt. Maj. Danny Tielens) - In September 2008, Operation Guardian Falcon arrived at Kandahar province to support the International Security Assistance Force as the first Belgian detachment at Kandahar Airfield.
A Belgian F-16 that is a part of Operation Guardian Falcon releases flares near Kandahar Airfield on November 12th, 2011. Operation Guardian Falcon, which arrived at KAF in September of 2008, expects to reach its landmark 5,000th flight and 15,000th hour later this month. [USAF photo]
At the time, OGF consisted of six F-16s and about 120 military personnel.
Today, five years later, a total of 16 detachments – 1,938 Belgian soldiers – have deployed to KAF and almost 4,900 flights have been conducted with a total of about 14,800 flight hours. Operation Guardian Falcon expects to reach its landmark 5,000th flight and 15,000th hour later this month.
The mission has remained the same over the years: provide air support to ISAF
troops. For five years now, Belgian F-16 fighter jets have departed from KAF doing just that.
Their mission is performed by two tactical wings of the Belgian Air Component: the 2nd Tactical Wing based in Florennes and the 10th Tactical Wing based in Kleine-Brogel. Both are supported by military personnel from medical, personnel, transmission and communication units among others.
The Belgians were not alone when they first arrived in Kandahar.
“I cannot say that we have a special relationship with any country in particular,” said Maj. David "Scud" Scutenaire, the current commander of the Belgian detachment. “As Belgians, we have to be very flexible because we come from a small country. We work closely together with countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom, but also with smaller countries such as Denmark
or the Baltic states."
Even though the Belgian F-16s are equipped with state-of-the-art technology that provides pilots with situational awareness, their work is far from easy. Working under ISAF, the pilots must adhere to the ISAF rules of engagement.
Over the years, the comfort has improved remarkably for the soldiers of OGF, especially the living accommodations – an important aspect considering Belgian soldiers deploy to KAF for four to five months. When the Belgian detachment first arrived in 2008, they lived and worked in tents. Now, they live in concrete buildings that provide better security against rocket attacks as well as better protection against extreme weather conditions.