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Travail pratique n°4



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1.    Welcome to the The Royal Military Academy!


The Royal Military Academy (RMA) is a university institution, charged with the   academic, military, sports and character training of its students.

The RMA forms officers who are capable of leadership in varied, complex and

exceptional circumstances, in the service of the national and international community. Therefore we adapt our education permanently to the needs of the Armed Forces, integrate the values of society into our education.


The Royal Military Academy offers a multidisciplinary and integrated education,

organised within the Polytechnics Faculty and the Faculty Social and Military Sciences. More detailed information is to be found in the chapter: Academic Education. Both branches of studies attempt to provide the young officer with the necessary background to grasp the technical, economic, geopolitical and social complexities of our present world. Anticipating, organising, commanding, managing, co-ordinating and controlling are the basic tasks of the future officer.


2.       The Studies


Studies at the RMA are spread over a period of 5 academic years in the Polytechnics faculty and 4 in the faculty of Social and Military Sciences. The academic year is divided into two terms. The first from September to January, the second from February to June. Each term ends with an exam session. The final year ends with a third term (from September to the end of November) during which the student spends most of his time on the completion of his own end-of-study work (the culmination of his academic training). When they leave the RMA and before they join their respective units, young officers get a professional training, adapted to the corps or speciality they belong to.


"Forming military leaders". Here you have in three small words the objective of the formation in the Royal Military Academy (RMA). In the mission statement the most important factors of this formation are enumerated. Military training is an essential part of it. These military leaders are the leaders of tomorrow, in new army structures, with new means, in hitherto unknown circumstances, in a context of new international organisations... One thing is certain: that chief will have to take his men toward their objective through his knowledge, his talents but above all through what he is: a leader

who continually adapts and who can manage people.


Before they begin the academic studies of the first year, the candidates have to survive a period of military initiation, when they are taught the basic notions and skills of the

military profession. At the same time candidates are offered the chance to discover

whether they will be capable of coping with the requirements of their chosen profession.

The RMA is in charge with that part of the military basic training of professional officers that is common to all components of the Armed Forces. In two cases, officers already start in the RMA with part of their specialised training: that is the case for prospective pilots

and deck officers and technical officers of the Navy. The military training in the RMA is concentrated in two periods of military camp in every academic year: one period of two or three weeks in January, and a second period of four weeks in July.


From the third year onwards, students systematically go abroad, to teach them to adapt  their work methods to ever changing and exceptional circumstances: the mountainous terrain of the Czech Republic, the desert south of the High Atlas in Morocco, the tropical savannah of the West-African of Benin completed with a stay in Ireland or Slovenia. And "in between" he has obtained the elementary qualifications as a parachutist and

commando in the paratrooper-training centre in Schaffen and Marche-les-Dames.


There is a double aim to the physical education at the Royal Academy: have the students reach a strong physical condition and at the same time develop in them a taste for sports and outdoor life. In the curriculum at the RMA five hours of physical education are scheduled per week. Moreover, students are expected to devote supplementary hours –

even during examination periods- to self-fulfilment in the field of sports.


A good physical condition is a must for every soldier. They are responsible for their own physical condition. At the RMA students are lent more than a helping hand: the available possibilities offered by the curriculum, sports infrastructure, coaching and the whole

culture of education at the academy are evidently of overriding importance for the result. An attractive and balanced programme of physical education not only takes the students in the course of four or five years to a sporting high, but also teaches them to coach others sensibly during sporting activities.


Character building implies a number of aspects. It is not limited to polishing shoes or training your endurance and perseverance. At the RMA, students are prepared for their future tasks as leaders in the widest sense of the word. So, students are taught to manage their personnel and means in difficult circumstances (in the desert, in the mountains,

during amphibious exercises), while at the same time giving them modern leadership courses and training their social aptitudes.


An officer must be capable of efficient communication with his men and his superiors.

The importance of this communication keeps increasing, on the occasion of missions abroad, contacts with local people and adversaries. They must be able to negotiate with all sorts of people, to manage individual conflicts, plan the most diverse kind of operations,

be creative with limited means, guide and support the members of their personnel on all occasions, manage their own feelings of doubt, fear and uncertainty.


We consider it a prerequisite for an officer of the 21st century to possess all these characteristics. So, we try to prepare our students to it in a modern and experience-bases way.

More detailed information can be found in the section about Character Building.

As you see neither time nor means are spared for the training of the future officers. The whole body of character building, the academic, physical and military training is a unique training experience where motivated young people can develop into responsible soldiers and civilians.





3.        The Daily Life


Just like all universities that show self-respect, the RMA enjoys a very intense student life. More than elsewhere, traditions play an important social role, as a catalyst for a steady esprit de corps. Behind a stern front an unsuspected environment lies hidden, where youth and uniforms go together very well.





An example:


In the parade ground of the RMA, a promotion commander tries to escape from a mob chasing him. Besieged, the officer has no other choice than to surrender. A crowd of uniformed youngsters jump on him and willy-nilly drag him towards the swimming pool. Few seconds later, the promotion commander ends up, fully clothed, thrown into the deep end of the pool. On his soaking dress, three new gold stars are shining…


Such insubordination within the armed forces is unexpected to say the least. What has happened to military discipline? At a civilian university, students wouldn’t dare throw one of their professors into the pool! It's only because we are at a military university, that such an occurrence is possible. This chase is one of the traditions of the academy. Contrary to appearances, this is a sign of respect and recognition besides a signal of integration. Actually, it could be that the promotion commander would be very disappointed if he was not chased in honour of his appointment…


This ‘chase’ is but an aspect of the folklore of student life at the RMA. Like other    traditions, its aim is to reinforce the team spirit among students, staff and lecturers. Of course, the RMA is not a university like all others. If individual achievement and discipline play a major role, solidarity and team work are at least as important. Customs and traditions at the RMA moreover encourage a degree of competitive spirit among the different promotions. Those are basic values for young officers who are to function within a professional and modern army.


The RMA is organised on the lines of a boarding school. Students in the first two years

stay in double rooms (from the third year on: single rooms) in a brand new building.

These comfortable rooms are perfectly adapted to study and are equipped with ample

desks. All are connected to the Internet. This change reflects the evolution of the RMA in modern society. It also represents the major progress made in the field of individual freedom. Yet, even the old system (rooms with 12 beds) had its advantages… of course, comfort an privacy have much improved, but to some extent this will be to the detriment

of social life and the team spirit we now have.


Some students benefit from the ‘Living Out’ formula: those who are married, those who live together or live near the academy. Yet, the possibility to enjoy this situation is linked

to study results. ‘Boarding’ is not a synonym for ‘detention’. The RMA of today allows its students to lead a normal social and affective life. Apart from the camp periods (two or three weeks in January and the whole month of July) and the six weeks of initial training, the officer cadets of the first year have one evening off a week. They return home on

Friday evening and are expected back on Monday morning. Climbing the wall is no longer worth its wile… From the second year onward, the regime becomes more flexible. The student-officers (from the third year on) are free to manage their leisure time themselves. Of course, these privileges are linked to their study results. In the case of failure or inadequate behaviour, measures that restrict these freedoms could be imposed.


Those who are boarders at the RMA have a large number of entertainment facilities at their disposal. Sports are a major feature: swimming pool, omnisports hall, ultramodern gym… All are accessible free of charge. The same is true for activities of a more cultural nature : reading, computing etc… The bar is open to all for a moment of relaxation and two student unions (Omega and Polytechnique) make sure a convivial atmosphere is maintained… but also support students with their problems. Whoever faces a difficulty can always turn to the student who acts as his godfather, or to a « caque ». « Caque » is an Indian word for chief; these « caques » are students who coach their peers. Their leader is the ‘grand caque ‘, an officer-student traditionally chosen from the 5th year Polytechnic.

To become a « caque » is a highly sought after honour.


In contrast to other universities, where students are left to their own devices and where attendance at courses is optional, the RMA has a policy of constantly monitoring its students. Their presence is obligatory at every course or activity. Moreover, their progress is regularly monitored. In this way, possible problems can be detected in a very early stage. In that case, the student may rely on the support of RMA academic or military staff for further explanation or supplementary exercises. The RMA has a cadre/student ratio, which is extremely favourable. In these circumstances, the academy offers an environment that is particularly conducive to successful studies… and the training of officers at high level.

Within a short time after the independence of Belgium, King Leopold I was convinced of the necessity of a capable corps of officers. After all, the young king himself had fought Napoleon’s armies as an officer with the Russian army. Moreover, tension was high between Belgium and the Netherlands. Even though a cease-fire had been called, no peace treaty had been signed yet. The need for well-trained officers was urgent. It was the then lieutenant colonel Edouard Chapelié, who in 1834 was given the task to establish an academy for the formation of officers.


4.       A Brief History


Already at the beginning of the 16th century there were academies in our region, where pages were trained in such skills as horseriding, mathematics and fencing, as a preparation to a possible career as an officer.


Between 1670 and 1830 the subsequent authorities - Spain and Austria to name but two – each had their own version of a military academy. Only after the Belgian independence in 1830 does the evolution take its proper course.

The Military Academy was founded in 1834, at a time when Belgian politics were still in their infancy. Its first purpose was to form the officers of the artillery and the engineers. This is not surprising, because the appointment of its French founder and first commander, lieutenant colonel Chapelié meant that preference was given to the French model of the "Ecole Polytechnique" in Paris. Officers of other service only got practical training and usually came up through the ranks of NCOs. Only in 1849 did the general staff move to a yearly recruitment for the other services.


Until 1874 the academy was situated in the "Rue de Namur", from whence it moved to the "La Cambre Abbey". But due to unhealthy accommodation and lack of space the school administrators had to look for new premises. The city of Brussels donated a plot of land, close to the former training grounds of "Linthout". Moreover, a number of adjoining plots was purchased. In this way, the Military Academy finally arrived at its present location in the "Avenue de la Renaissance".


In 1914 the Belgian authorities disbanded the Military Academy, so that after the Great War the academy had to start again from scratch. Scientific gear had been removed and its officers and NCOs had been dispersed across the different units. Yet, at the end of 1919 the new promotions made their entry into the academy. In 1935, the academy celebrated its centenary by introducing lots of innovations, amongst which a new name: from then on the Military Academy could be proud of its epithet "Royal". In 1935 lectures were for the first time given in both national languages to the 96th Artillery-Engineers and the 81st Infantry-Cavalry. On the occasion of the general mobilisation of 1939 all courses at the RMA were suspended, as its officers and members of the academic staff left for their units.


Hardly a couple of months after the end of the Second World war the RMA reopened its gates on 7 January 1946. It was faced with enormous difficulties: neglected buildings, a dispersed academic staff a thoroughly changed society and on top of that a different approach to the armed forces. During the war, new services had been created and others had gained importance. A commission was created to plot a new course: a scientific formation at university level, complemented by a basic military training. Also the character building of the leader and his integration into a democratic regime were seen to be very important.


Two streams of studies came into existence, each with its own specific aims.

The Polytechnic division (now Polytechnic faculty) replaced the former Artillery-Engineering Section, with courses lasting five years. The pre-war Infantry-Cavalry section was supplanted by the All Arms division.(now faculty for Social and Military Sciences) Laboratories were equipped again for practical work and for scientific research. Basic military training was adapted to modern warfare and now started with a stint in the field. The academy introduced a new kind of discipline, which allowed the candidates to develop their personalities and moral defences. Also "godparenthood" and bonds of friendship with foreign military academies were to contribute to this aim.


The new program of the Polytechnics division answered four needs: a wide scientific

basis, a thorough general education, a practice-based orientation and an irrefutable military character.

For the All Arms division, the commission, in charge of reorganising the Royal Military Academy, introduced a proposal to change the courses into a technical training adapted to the ever-increasing mechanisation of the armed forces. Others were more in favour of a formation, based on a scientific education, and "in which military discipline finds its

roots". In the end, a compromise was reached: a three-year programme with exact and behavioural sciences. Only three promotions were to follow this programme. During the Korean War, the Royal Military Academy was temporarily obliged to reduce the All Arms officer training to two years. In 1955 the curriculum was again expanded to three years, whereas in 1962 the Minister of Defence decided to add another year to the All Arms formation, making it four years: equivalent to a "licence" in social sciences.


After World War II there were other changes as well. In 1946, also the Air Force and

Navy were faced with their officer formation. As the armed forces were too small to

establish a military academy for each service, the Royal Military Academy was given an Interforce mission. Later on, even the officer-cadets of the "Gendarmerie" and Medical Service were trained at the RMA. Since a short time, the RMA no longer educates gendarmes and we speak about the Polytechnic faculty, the faculty for Social and Military Sciences and the industrial engineers take their courses in the Special Division. Since 2003, the RMA has also adopted the bachelor-master system.