Dozens of Dutch soldiers march through the streets: ‘Something is really going on’

Dozens of Dutch soldiers march through the streets: ‘Something is really going on’
Dozens of Dutch soldiers march through the streets: ‘Something is really going on’

With the Russian threat in mind, dozens of soldiers will march through the Dutch streets in the coming days. The Air Mobile Brigade practices in various cities along roads, squares and on industrial estates, to get the most realistic possible picture of a real war situation. “Something is really going on,” says retired general Mart de Kruif.

The soldiers practice in Nijmegen, Schaarsbergen and Arnhem. In the latter place, soldiers had to enter an empty building on Wednesday morning. “The men arrived here this morning and did a reconnaissance. They look at the building and decide: where do I want to enter? This must be done quickly and effectively,” says Warrant Officer Sebastiaan Hoek, who is leading the exercise, in Goedemorgen Nederland on NPO 1.

A soldier stands in the building between empty shells waiting for the exercise to be over. She was allegedly shot during the raid. “They entered the living room, through the door instead of through the windows. There I stood.” Petty Officer Hoek is not yet satisfied with the raid. “No. More needs to be done here.”

A little further on, Commander of the Supply Company Max Mackay is practicing with his men. They have to get to a farm to disable anti-aircraft guns that are positioned behind the farm. An important lesson. “We train regularly, but we do not always take the liberty of actually conducting exercises here among the civilian population,” says the commander.

Citizens can come and watch the exercise. Mackay: “We see that the contemporary conflict mainly takes place in urbanized areas. That is why we think it is important that citizens become familiar with our military actions.”

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He acknowledges that the exercise outside the usual training areas has become a necessity. “We see it in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, we see it in the war between Russia and Ukraine. These are conflicts that we would prefer not to be part of, but for which we must prepare.”

‘Something is really going on’

For retired general Mart de Kruif, the images of the exercises are almost a familiar sight. “I come from the time of the Cold War. Then we did nothing else. Someone blew a whistle, then you ran to your armored vehicle and drove three hundred miles east to dig a foxhole and wait to see what would happen.”

“But you see that we train differently than before,” says De Kruif. “We trained for missions for years. Now we are training for what to do if we are really at war.” He thinks it is good that Defense exercises among the population. “That’s a lot, though. Moreover, training grounds are far too small.”

He says: “Take the Supply Company. They have to learn how to deliver food, ammunition and spare parts over long distances. You can’t practice that on a stamp. In the coming days they will encounter farms, roads and highways. How do you deal with that? It remains an exercise, but you try to make it as realistic as possible. For example, you train how to work with a helicopter. You have to practice that.”

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De Kruif sees that exercises are becoming increasingly large-scale and not just within our own national borders. “A unit from Oirschot with four thousand men and women will train for weeks as part of a NATO exercise. These kinds of things will only happen more often if the situation remains as uncertain as the situation we are living in now.”

According to De Kruif, the fact that Dutch people in Arnhem and Nijmegen may suddenly be confronted with a passing soldier in the coming days is good for raising awareness of the threats on the world stage. “Something is really going on. If you fly to a Greek island, it is further than flying to Kiev. And there is war.”


A banner has been hung in Nijmegen in protest against the defense exercises. “That’s fine with me,” De Kruif responds. “Because you know, it’s not possible in Russia. You don’t have to protest there, because then you will be arrested immediately. Fortunately, you can do it here.”

In the meantime, the conscription letter will be delivered in the coming days. The recipient is informed that he or she has been registered for military service. “Princess Ariane will also get it,” says De Kruif. Like her peers, the princess does not actually have to report to the barracks. “Compulsory attendance has been abolished. We wouldn’t be able to introduce that now either. We simply don’t have the guns and bullets.”

Yet De Kruif feels that the Netherlands is pulling its weight now that the world around us has become uncertain. “That will take a few years, but we feel the urgency. NATO is relatively safe now, but only as long as we have the US on our side. If the elections turn out badly, we really have a problem.”

Also read:

EU takes step towards war economy with mega investment of 1.5 billion: ‘Not nearly enough’

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By: Peter Visser

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Dozens Dutch soldiers march streets


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