I was watching the eight o’clock news with my parents, it was 1986 and I was 11 years old. The reporter had an announcement to make, ‘Secret Special Forces Unit in the Netherlands’ and with that announcement a short clip was shown. It showed a field with some trees, a typical Dutch landscape, but all of sudden a lid popped open out of the ground, 4 guys jumped out with blackened faces, Uzis at the ready, and ran off into the forest. I was glued to the television and thought to myself, this is what I want to be. It made a huge impression on me what I saw that night, and it would influence the rest of my life. The unit I saw that night was the Korps Commando Troepen
A goal was set, a dream was born and I was determined to make my dream come true..
And with some bends in the road, after finishing school (just), I was ready to join the Army at the age of 17.
NO! said my mother, you’re not going to the army, you are too young, you will have to learn a profession first, because the Army is not a real job. OK, back to the drawing board, what now? Second best option on my short list, become a lumberjack. So back to school.. what?? For being a lumberjack? Well that lasted for one year, and even my mother must have seen that this was a near to impossible task. So, I dropped out of school and started working in a forestry company, cutting down trees for a living. After about 6 months of working there, the boss came up to me and said, ‘You can take over this business, one day’, mind you, this was a two-man operation.. Him and Me :), well I did work with him for a few years, and liked the work, but I wanted more, so I quit.
My parents where opening up a bar at that time, so we joined forces and made another dream come true, that place still runs great today: Grand Cafe Public but again, can you feel it coming? Yes, I quit. Why? Because I wanted to chase my dream, I wanted to become a Commando and I was afraid that if I didn’t do it now, I might be regretting it for the rest of my life, so I decided to Get After It for real this time.
So, this time I informed my mother that I was going to join the Commandos (I was a big boy now, or at least, that’s what I thought) she tried to get me to join the Marines and said that they looked smarter than those Commando types 🙂 I guess that even back then the Marines had better marketing, but it didn’t matter, I was not a big fan of (cold) water and most important, the Marines weren’t being dropped behind enemy lines (sorry if you are an Marine).
I went to the local recruiting office, walked in and said, I want to join the Commandos, where can I sign up? In that office where about 5 staff members, and they all came out to see who this person was, who was apparently crazy enough to sign up for this sh*t voluntarily.. ‘are you sure’ the recruiter said, ‘it is really hard to make it to the Commandos’, ‘we have a new unit, that would be great for you, it is called Air Mobile Brigade’. No thanks, I said, it will have to be the Commandos, or nothing.
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First me, and a room full of other wannabee soldiers got a general briefing about joining the Army, after that they started calling out different unit names and they would lead you to a room to watch a promo from that unit. All kinds of units were named, and everybody put up his arm, ‘yes, I want to see that promo’ until he came to the Commandos, ‘who wants to go to the Commandos’ the guy said.. just one hand went up, mine.
November 1998, I was ready to go. I shaved my head, because I thought that they were going to do that anyway(don’t forget.. no internet back in the day). I said to my mother, I will see you in 6 months and went to the train station. Standing on the platform I looked to my right and see a guy, I look a bit closer, it’s Robin, I know this guy, because we played rugby together a few times. I say, ‘hey, where are you going’, the Commandos he says… well i’ll be damned!
My Lessons Learned:
- Follow your intuition on that first dream, don’t wait to long, you might regret it in the future.
- Don’t let other people decide for you where you want to go -I mean the staff guy, who tried to alter my decision-
To be continued….
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