King awards highest Dutch honor to Commando Corps

King Willem Alexander awards Order of Willem to the Commando Corps for their efforts in Afghanistan, 15 Mar 2016 (Photo: @WimKok/Twitter). (King Willem Alexander awards Order of Willem to the Commando Corps for their efforts in Afghanistan, 15 Mar 2016 (Photo: @WimKok/Twitter))

King Willem-Alexander awarded the Military Order of Willem to the the elite unit of the Dutch army, the Commando Corps, on Tuesday for their extraordinary efforts in Afghanistan. According to the King, the Corps can be measured with the best special forces in the world. "You went through the fire for peace and safety", he said in his speech, according to AD journalist Raymond Boere tweeting from the ceremony.

According to the King, the situation in Afghanistan is not black and white, but the Corps still performed magnificently. In 5.5 years they went on more than 170 missions and had 110 confrontations with the enemy. The Corps also actively worked on rebuilding the country, for example with the construction of water basins.

Not many active Commandos were present at the ceremony. Their identities are kept a secret for their own protection. Two previously knighted commandos Marco Kroon and Gijs Tuinman did attend. They also received the Military Order of Willem, the Netherlands' highest order for bravery, for their efforts in Afghanistan.

Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert also gave a speech. She nominated the Commando Corps for this honor, which she called "the Netherlands' highest and oldest decoration of bravery". According to her, the Commando Corps performed well beyond expectations in Afghanistan. That is what sets them apart. "A commando keeps going where others stop", she said in her speech.

This is the first time since 1947 that an entire unit is given such a high honor for a post-war mission. The Commando Corps are being honored for their efforts in Afghanistan between March 2005 and September 2010.

One example of the Corps performing magnificently was in a parachute mission in 2009, according to Dutch newspaper AD. Nine commandos and an Afghan interpreter were quietly dropped in a valley the Taliban used to supply troops. The commandos secretly mapped the number of fighters and their movements. They spent four days in the area before being extracted by their colleagues.