The first step on the way to becoming a Dutch army commando, is the Elementary Commando Training or ECO (Elementaire Commando Opleiding) in Dutch. In eight weeks the “cursisten” (trainees, regardless of rank) are evaluated by a team of commando instructors, basically answering a single question: does this guy have what it takes to be in my team.
*note. I cannot show any faces of the instructors as they are Special Forces operators. I also cannot show the faces of the trainees, as they might become SF operators very soon.
Driving from my home to the Belgian army commando training center in the Ardennes took me about two and a half hours. I arrived in pouring rain, finding the trainees and their instructors already soaked. Soon I was too.
I was there to document the climbing and a speedmarch of unknown lenght. Lightning and rain made the climbing phase impossible so I could only photograph the march.
After being worn down all morning with exercises and chores, the trainees were led up the hillside doubletime. Very soon the platoon started breaking up and the ever present instructors made their presence felt even more.
It was up to the whole platoon to make sure nobody was left behind and the instructors made sure they didn’t forget. Halfway it started pouring with rain again but I am sure that was the least of the trainees worries. I doubt they even noticed the rain.
The instructors made sure all trainees had their “moment”, where they would want to give in, but kept going on willpower alone.
In the end we were all soaked and since it stopped pouring down when we got back to camp, we changed into dry clothes. But not before the platoon has a steaming compliment from the chief.