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Dutch defense minister concerned at US gun violence after three soldiers shot in Indianapolis

Czech Republic EU Defense Ministers
Posted at 6:56 AM, Aug 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-30 17:45:01-04

PRAGUE (AP) — Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren expressed concern Tuesday at gun violence in the United States in the aftermath of a shooting in Indianapolis over the weekend that left one Dutch soldier dead and two wounded.

"We do many trainings of our servicemen in the United States, and we really don’t expect this to happen. So it’s very, very concerning for us.” Ollongren told The Associated Press at a meeting of European Union defense ministers in Prague.

The men were in Indiana training at Muscatatuk Urban Training Center in Butlerville. They were shot around 4 a.m. near South Meridian Street and West Maryland Street, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

The Dutch defense minister said the shooting happened in front of the hotel where they were staying.

A 26-year-old member of the Dutch Commando Corps, identified by U.S. authorities as Simmie Poetsema, died of his injuries “surrounded by family and colleagues” after the shooting early Saturday, the Dutch Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday.

Ollongren declined to comment on the shooting while investigations continue. She said there is “good contact” between Dutch military police and authorities in Indianapolis.

“We have read things in the media, we have heard what the mayor said but we feel it’s very important to have a real thorough investigation. So we’re waiting for that until we comment on what actually happened,” she said.

Congressman Andre Carson responded to Minster’s Ollongren comments on Tuesday.

“While I appreciate her concerns, I think it’s an unreasonable fear. I think it plays into stereotypes about the United States, we are still in many ways a country that has one of the best law enforcement apparatuses,” Congressman Carson added.

According to IMPD, the incident is still under investigation and no arrests have been made.

On Tuesday, the Netherlands Ministry of Defence told WRTV that three members of the Netherlands Royal Marechaussee have gone to Indianapolis to liaise between local police in Indianapolis and Dutch MOD, the investigation is NOT conducted by them, but in the hands of IMPD.

Ollongren said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin contacted her Monday “to express his regrets and his condolences.”

On Monday, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said while he couldn't comment on specifics about the investigation, he thinks IMPD has "a good idea" of what happened.

"I think that what that underscores is too often, not just in Indianapolis, conflict resolution has become just people pulling out guns and shooting each other," Hogsett said. "As I understand it there was a scuffle — a kerfuffle — at a bar and the Dutch guardsmen had returned back to their hotel. What they were doing outside I'm not altogether sure — but I'm told the alleged perpetrators did a drive-by shooting and ultimately three were victimized by that shooting."

Dutch Soldiers Shot Indiana
An entrance to the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is closed in Butlerville, Ind., Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Three members of the Dutch Commando Corps, who were training at the center, were shot outside their hotel in downtown Indianapolis early Saturday morning. The Dutch Defense Ministry says that one has died.

Why train in Indiana?

Foreign soldiers often go to United States military facilities that replicate the “unpredictable realism” of battlefield situations within an environment that a soldier would encounter.

At Muscatatuck — where the three Dutch Commando Corps members involved in the shooting were training — “everything in the city and surrounding property, including the people, is ‘in play,'" its website says.

It's a 1,000-acre (405-hectare) complex that trumpets hyper-focused training across land, air, water, technology and space.

Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a retired Marine colonel, said Muscatatuck is "essentially a small city” for combat training. U.S. allies with troops from countries without the capacity for such facilities can learn in an environment that replicates the one they could fight in, he said.

“Europeans have things like that,” he said, but U.S. facilities are “more elaborate, in part because we have more money, and probably because we have more space, and larger forces.”

What exactly is at Muscatatuck?

The Muscatatuck complex had been a state-operated center for people with developmental disabilities since the 1920s, with more than 2,000 residents at one point before it was closed by the state. The Indiana National Guard then took over the site in 2005.

Military officials saw the campus of more than 60 buildings, nine miles of roads and more than a mile of tunnels — in a rural setting isolated from nearby communities — as an ideal place to replicate an urban territory for military training, including chemical or biological attacks.

“Our primary intent is to simulate real-world, urban scenarios through real and virtual training for first responders involved in counterterrorism operations,” then-Indiana Guard Adjutant General Martin Umbarger said in announcing the creation of the Muscatatuck center in 2004.

The Indiana National Guard said in a statement that the center is used for training by the Department of Defense “as well as other allies.” A spokesman did not respond to an interview request.

Those materials detail a training environment that mimics a city — with a five-story hospital, an oil refinery, a coal-fired steam plant, among many other features — as well as bits of infrastructure that might be found in a war zone, such as downed aircraft, searchable “rubble buildings,” a caved-in parking garage and a collapsed rail trestle.

Why were the soldiers away from the base?

The Muscatatuck center is part of a larger installation called Atterbury-Muscatatuck that covers 36,000 acres, including some lodging options. It's not clear whether the Dutch soldiers had been staying on the installation during any of their training.