Commander of the Heavy Airlift Wing, Col Trevor W. Nitz of the United States Air Force, hands over the guidon of the Heavy Airlift Squadron to Lt Col Peer Geelen of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Photo: HAW / Tuomas Saavalainen.
Lieutenant Colonel Geelen assumed the command of the HAS from Lieutenant Colonel Eric J. Howland of the United States Air Force. After two years of service as the Commander of the HAS, Lt Col Howland's next assignment will be as the Operational Air Assessment Staff Officer at Allied Joint Force Command (JFC) Naples. In his new position, Lt Col Howland will contribute to the operational assessment of any operation being conducted by the command, and supervise the work of the other air environment operational assessment Air Staff Officers at JFC Naples.
Lt Col Geelen has served at the HAW since 2014. Prior to assuming command of the HAS, he served as the squadron's Director of Operations. Lt Col Geelen received his commission in the RNLAF in 1984 after having attended the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. Since then, he has served in multiple different units, flying NF-5A/B, T-38, E-3A, B-707, C-130E/H, Fokker F-27M and C-17A aircraft. In total, Lt Col Geelen has approximately 8,700 flight hours, including more than 650 in the C-17A.
As the Commander of the HAS, Lt Col Geelen draws upon his extensive experience from military aviation and multinational cooperation. From 1990 until 1996, he was assigned to the NATO AWACS component at Geilenkirchen Air Force Base, Germany. Before joining the HAW in 2014, Lt Col Geelen served as a Flight Commander at the RNLAF 336 Squadron at Eindhoven Air Force Base. Between 2005 and 2014, Lt Col Geelen deployed multiple times to Afghanistan in support of the NATO-led ISAF operation, serving as a Detachment Commander in Kabul, Kandahar and Minhad.
Commander of the Heavy Airlift Wing, Col Trevor W. Nitz of the United States Air Force, presents Lt Col Howland with a framed guidon of the Heavy Airlift Squadron. Photo: HAW / Tuomas Saavalainen.
About the Heavy Airlift Squadron (HAS):
The Heavy Airlift Squadron (HAS) is the world's first and only multinational Boeing C-17A Globemaster III operations squadron, consisting of the Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) flight crews and specialized functions for Aviation Management, Intelligence, Mission Security Forces, Tactics, Training, Standardization and Evaluation, and Safety.
The heritage of the HAS is rooted in the training, policies and standards of the U.S. air mobility system, as the United States Air Force (USAF) is the main user of the C-17A. The multinational squadron has also adapted the best practices of its C-17A sister squadrons in the USAF, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. The squadron structure, as well as its policies and procedures, are designed to operate in support of the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) member nations' strategic policies to include combat and humanitarian airlift wherever and whenever required.
The HAS flight crews have a varied background of flying and working with cargo aircraft, fighter jets and helicopters in their national militaries. Apart from the U.S. personnel, none of them have C-17A training before joining the HAW. After C-17A training has been carried out both in the United States and in Pápa, HAS aircrews are capable of reaching a high level of skill in utilizing the various capabilities of the aircraft. The flight crews of the HAS represent the only Foreign Military Sales (FMS) unit trained and capable of performing the entire spectrum of C-17A Airland and Airdrop Mission Capabilities: Day/Night/NVG, High/Low Level, Tactical Arrival and Departure, Assault Landing Zone Capable, Air-to-Air Refueling, Single Ship Airdrop, and Aeromedical Evacuation Operations.
The HAS proves daily that its multinational flight crews execute missions safely and effectively to locations anywhere in the world, even to the most austere locations and conditions.
Whenever necessary, the Heavy Airlift Squadron executes missions to the most austere conditions. Above, a SAC C-17A takes off from Gao, Mali. Photo: Royal Netherlands Army.
About the Strategic Airlift Capability
Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC), established in 2008, is a multinational program that provides its 12 member nations with assured access to military airlift capability by owning and operating three Boeing C-17 Globemaster III long-range cargo aircraft.
SAC is based at the Hungarian Defence Forces (HDF) Pápa Air Base, Hungary.
The SAC Nations are the NATO members Hungary (program host nation), Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States and NATO Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden. Each participating nation owns a share of the available flight hours of the SAC C-17s to serve the needs of their national defence, NATO, EU or UN commitments and humanitarian relief efforts.
SAC consists of the 12-nation Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) and the NATO Airlift Management Programme Office (NAM PO). The HAW is the operational unit and the NAM PO, an integral part of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), is the acquisition and sustainment authority of the SAC C-17 weapon system.
NAM PO contracts Boeing via a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement to provide technical support for the SAC C-17 aircraft.