The Belgian army inaugurated its Special Operations Regiment
On Tuesday, July 3, 2018, in the presence of Steven Vandeput, Belgian Minister of Defense, the new Special Operations Regiment (SO Regt) was officially presented with an explanation on its transformation from Light Brigade into SO Regt and the announcement of the delivery of the Jankel "Fox", their new Rapid Reaction Vehicle (RRV).
Colonel Vincent Descheemaeker, commander of the SO Regiment, and Defense Minister Steven Vandeput after reviewing troops at the creation of the Belgian Special Operations Regiment in Heverlee (Picture source: Army Recognition)
As foreseen in the Strategic Vision document issued in 2016, the Light Brigade is transferred from Marche-en-Famenne, its previous assignment, to Heverlee. It becomes the Special Operations Regiment, composed of the Special Forces Group, the 2nd Commando Battalion, the 3rd Parachute Battalion and related training centers, plus the 6th Command- and Information Systems group. The SO Regiment's missions will focus more on the execution of special operations such as, for example, counter-terrorism. The regiment staff is directly in command of all special operations land forces. It is entrusted with their permanent training, instruction and personnel management. It is the backbone for the conduct of a special forces rapid interventions.
The Special Forces Group structure has been extended with a specific instruction cell adapted to integrate the most modern SOF developments, including micro- and mini-UAVs, as well as dogs. From now on, in addition to their current training for conventional missions like capturing ad securing an airport or evacuating nationals from a crisis area, the Para-Commandos battalions are also trained to carry on special operations; depending on the mission, they may execute it in support of the Special Forces Group or in a completely autonomous way. The additional missions require additional skills: a different way of planning and preparing operations, a more decentralized leadership and more intensive training in firing techniques (including sniping), communications, medical skills, fighting in urban areas, mobility (insertion techniques), knowledge of explosive devices, and survival are key elements of their transformation process.
Minister of Defense Steven Vandeput told Army Recognition this new structure of the previous Light Brigade corresponds to an operational need learned from the various external operations in which Belgian units are involved, be it under NATO or UN flag. A key element in the new regiment’s environment is the SOCOM, the Special Operations Command. Minister Vandeput said that “Together with the creation process of the Special Operations Regiment, a Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was set up in mid-2017. Although the SO units don’t directly come under the SOCOM, the latter can be considered as the Belgian center for expertise for special operations. Because of its place in the defense structure, SOCOM is the point of contact for international and interdepartemental cooperation concerning special operations. SOCOM is also in charge of drafting the Composite Special Operations Component Command project where Belgium, with The Netherlands and Denmark, is developing a deployable SOF HQ that can be made available to NATO”.
Colonel Vincent Descheemaeker, commander of the SO Regiment, told Army Recognition “The name change is a stepping stone in a building process which fits within the Strategic Vision 2016. Our recruitment and training methods will adapt to this new structure, also in the perspective of our privileged cooperation with the Dutch and Danish special forces, a reason why our three units exchange liaison officers”. Indeed, consider, for instance, that the new RRV (Rapid Reaction Vehicle), the Jankel “Fox”, has been designed to fit in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to enable transportation by the Dutch army. “The SO Regiment ambitions will evolve and grow to face tomorrow’s threats in a more efficient way, coalition based or as a national asset”, Colonel Descheemaeker added.
At the end of the parade, a dynamic demonstration was performed by Special Operations Regiment elements supported by some potential "facilitators" and during which a valuable package in the hands of a hostile cell was recovered.