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Studying at the KMA, what is it like?

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You might see them in Breda: cadets from the Royal Military Academy marching through the city centre. But what does the training at the KMA look like, and what happens behind the gates?
The Royal Military Academy (KMA) provides the military and technical training and education for officers of the Royal Netherlands Army, Royal Netherlands Air Force, and Royal Marechaussee. Applicants must have at least a pre-university education (vwo) or higher vocational education (hbo) diploma.

The short officer training for career switchers lasts 1 year, while the long officer training lasts 4 years. The difference between the KMA and any other hbo or wo programme is that at KMA, you do not choose a course of study, but apply for an officer position within the Defence forces. Merijn and Cato are both in their final year of the long officer training. Merijn has applied for the Infantry Officer position. He said, "During secondary school, my interest in Defence was sparked at a job fair. Two military personnel enthusiastically talked about the field of officers, and that's how I started at the KMA in 2020.

Cato didn't think she would fit in at the Royal Military Academy. "But then I was accepted and I went for it 100%. I really feel that Defence suits me now; I have been shaped here. You get to know yourself so well."

Green weeks in the forest

One part of the training at the Royal Military Academy is the military training and formation. "As a military person, you need to be able to do certain basic things. I remember well that we were driven to the forest for the first time in a ‘tonner’. With a very large bag, we were dropped off and had to set up our bivouac area. The first task was: put up the tent in 20 minutes. Of course, it never goes well the first time. Nor the second, third or fourth time. And at Defence, the rule is: if it's not good enough, do it again, and time is of the essence."

Cato says that she loved being in the forest. "Of course, I had terrible moments; everything was soaking wet and not much sleep. But we get through it together." Merijn adds: "It's not comfortable; it's physically hard work. During these green weeks, you also learn a lot. How do you handle your belongings carefully? How do you plan and deal with stress and time pressure? You think you can go up to a certain limit, but you can easily go beyond that."

In addition to the green weeks, there is also an academic period. "Then you just have classes," says Merijn. "Given by teachers who also teach at other universities, or civilian employees with a business background for example. They come straight from practice and can tell and teach a lot. While civilian teachers have an alternative view of the military organisation."

Strong bond

By going through tough times together, the cadets get to know each other in an intense way. "You live, study, exercise and eat together here, and you go on exercises together," Cato explains. "Life merges here; it's truly an institution. 24 hours a day, you are on and are also a soldier. You also spend a large part of your time in your combat gear (GVT). The beauty of becoming a soldier is that everyone shares the same military foundation, whether you are a business student, doctor or officer."

Cadet Corps

The Cadet Corps is the association for and by the cadets of the KMA. The Cadet Corps started as a way to escape the strict discipline of the KMA. Cato is the chairperson. "In the first six months, you are in a fairly strict regime: there's a morning roll call at 7:45 am in the courtyard and you spend the whole day in and around the faculty. It's decided for you whether you get free time to, for example, run an errand. Then, you gradually gain more freedom and thus get the opportunity to go out in Breda or at the KMA's own bar: the Cadet Corps.

Many cadets go to Havermarkt. When you're there, you always meet familiar faces. First a drink outside in the square and then in one of the pubs, such as Dependance, Suikerkist, Walkabout or Proost. We all live right in the city, so getting home is quick."

With a very large bag we were dropped and had to set up our bivouac site.

Living in Breda 

The cadets of the Royal Military Academy sleep 'indoors'; they stay in the barracks of the Prince Bernhard Pavilion at the Kasteelplein square, the barracks on the academy grounds itself, or at the Trip van Zoudtlandt Barracks. Cato: "Before my training, I had never been to Breda, but now I can say that I could definitely live here. Breda has really pleasantly surprised me. People are friendly, and if there's even one ray of sunshine on a Monday at 10 o'clock, the entire Grote Markt square is packed."

Tips for new KMA cadets 

"At first, you're not sure what is expected of you. Our tip would be: go in with an open mind and experience it. Do what you're asked, but remain critical of your own feelings. It's a special period where you learn entirely new skills. You need to become comfortable in the uncomfortable. And you need to be motivated, otherwise I think you might not last as long."

5 x tips from Merijn and Cato

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