Weapons used by the elite troops are so outdated and worn that life-threatening situations can occur during missions, insider sources told RTL News.
These include guns that explode, silencers dislodged from firearms, and radios that go out in the heat of combat situations. The defects, including the fact that nothing has been done for years, causes great frustrations within the Korps Commandotroepen (KCT).
Experienced soldiers have turned their backs on their unit for that reason. For the those who remain, the point has been reached where they find it irresponsible to perform further missions. “The limit has been reached”, they say. “There may be life-threatening situations that endanger operations of the KCT.”
The special forces of the Royal Netherlands Army, one of the three principal units (the others being the Maritime Special Operations Forces (NL MARSOF) of the Netherlands Marine Corps and the Brigade Speciale Beveiligingsopdrachten (BSB) of the Royal Marechaussee), is deployable anywhere in the world, including for counter-terrorism operations.
The research was done by RTL News, investigating the dire situation at the KCT in recent months. Reporters Roland Strijker and Siebe Sietsma spoke with three members of the corps and sifted through internal mails, letters and reports. Their effort shows that there is indeed a crisis in the unit.
In early June, executives of all four of the commando’s groups put together a letter of complaint, addressed to the chief of the KCT, Jelte Groen. In thirteen pages, the writers warned of the dangers they face due to defective materiel. A few examples include:
The Glock 17, the handgun of choice, has been used so often that parts tear. They are not replaced and are no longer functioning.
The pistol mitrailleur FN PDW 90, a noiseless weapon, is no longer available. Undercover operations can therefore no longer be carried out.
The sniper weapons are worn out. Without the cover of snipers, other commandos run big risks.
Radios are outdated and parts are out of order. Without mutual contact, the commandos can end in life-threatening situations.
Earlier this year, RTL News revealed that a commando had been killed during an exercise on a shooting range that should not have been used. The KCT had often asked for its own proper shooting range, but it was denied
And then there’s the clothing. Commandos go on secret missions regularly with worn trousers, full of holes. That leads to great annoyance as one explained to RTL News: “We’re sending our boys away in second-hand clothes. We are so ashamed. You’re literally in your underpants because your trousers are so worn out. This is the status of our unit, and we feel the same.”
The troops told RTL News: “This is an emergency call for help. I think it’s bad enough to take this step [to write such a letter], but I see that my colleagues, my brothers, are at risk. What I do not want to experience is telling a family that their father won’t be coming home anymore.”
Jelte Groen seems to agree with the complaints. He wrote an email in response to the letter: “In the last week I received a letter of complaint from some highly experienced sergeant majors. This letter drew attention to a number of concerns that are perfectly correct and I understand fully.”
This is also apparent from a quarterly report earlier this year submitted by Groen. That document was intended to inform the Supreme General of the Army, Leo Beulen, of the state of preparedness of the commandos. Groen writes inter alia:
“I’m still struggling with shortages and poor availability of materiel.”
“The state of the (radio) AN / PRC 112G is worrying.”
“The weapons (HK417) are worn to such an extent that it negatively affects the accuracy of the shot.”
Groen is also concerned about the unity: “The numbers of the KCT are dwindling. This is mainly caused by a number of disgruntled soldiers that cause increased outflows of commando operators. If this trend continues, then I anticipate a serious decline in the operational capacity of the Corps.”
The KCT is based at the Engelbrecht van Nassaukazerne in Roosendaal, their home garrison. The brass KCT beret emblem displays a Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife, hand grenade and a ribbon with the unit’s Nunc aut Nunquam (now or never) motto on it. A gothic typeface “W” is the background, the name Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherlands from 1898-1948.