The commander of Belgium’s land army, Major-General Marc Thys, visited various Belgian cities on Sunday to thank his men and women deployed for three years now in Operation Vigilant Guardian (OVG), a domestic security operation in support of the police. In Anvers, he said he hoped to be able to send these members of the military “as soon as possible” on missions abroad, although Defence staff has planned keeping them in the streets throughout 2018, and is preparing for 2019.
Gen. Thys gave the gift of an external battery that can be used to charge a cell phone to every soldier he met on Saturday – first in Anvers, then in Liège, and, at the end of the day, in Brussels.
He also confirmed that the Defence Ministry would give a medal to every soldier participating in OVG. “This continues to be a mission that is doubly heavy during the festive season,” he said, stressing that he understood how tough it was for families.
OVG was launched in January 2015 to reinforce the federal and local police forces after the Paris terror attacks and the dismantling of a terror cell in Verviers. It currently involves 1,000 soldiers after a peak of over 1,800 for many months of last year when the security alert level had been raised to 4, the highest. The number includes about 100 persons deployed in Operation Spring Guardian, which secures nuclear sites.
Gen. Thys recalled that the duration of the soldiers’ deployment in the streets, which became more “dynamic” and less “static” in September last, would depend on the threat level assessed by the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis, OCAM. That level is now 3 on a scale of 4.