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Belgian Special Operations Engineer Detachment

Belgium's Special Operations Engineer Detachment [© Belgian MvD: Vincent Bordignon]

The Belgian Special Operations Engineer Detachment comprises specific engineering capabilities within 3 Parachute and 2 Commando Battalions.

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News Release, Brussels, 25 January 2024: [auto-translated] The [Belgian] Special Operations Engineer Detachment , or SOED for short, comprises various specific engineering capabilities within 3 Parachute Battalion (3Para) and 2 Commando Battalion (2Cdo). There are divers, boats and the Advanced Search, Clearance and Breaching (ASCB) section, which also includes the military sniffer dogs. Whether it concerns carrying out on-water or underwater explorations or ensuring safety and mobility, the SOED plays a crucial role in many situations in Belgium and abroad.

Juan, head of the SOED detachment, says: “Our strength is that we have many different capabilities. We can be deployed in many different scenarios: both at height and underground, but of course also on and under water. We can set people up, evacuate people and carry out actions in very specific circumstances.”

The SOED consists of three parts: the Advanced Search, Clearance and Breaching (ASCB), the Amphibious Reconnaissance Team (ART) and the Boat Detachment.

Through everything: The ASCB team is trained to carry out actions in caves and tunnels and at high altitudes. The members ensure that people and/or materials end up in the right place. As advanced breachers, they can break through almost anything: doors, windows, walls and roofs. They do this with their special breaking tools or with explosives.

The SOED also has two military sniffer dogs. They can detect explosives and help the ASCB team create a safe passage. They are regularly deployed in difficult-to-reach areas and can also be sent to support a surprise attack .

Amphibious Reconnaissance Team: The ART teammates, also called frogmen , are just as important to the SOED. These divers can descend to depths of up to 60 meters. Their entire training takes more than two years.

“The main mission of combat divers is special reconnaissance: getting through the water behind enemy lines to achieve a specific objective or obtain information,” explains a diving instructor.

“The second mission is direct action: sabotage operations on or under water behind enemy lines,” the instructor continues. “The third mission is the most common: military assistance, that is, aid to allied countries. Finally, there are of course all the other classic para-commando missions, such as the evacuation of nationals from countries in crisis or assistance to the nation.”

Boat Detachment: The boat detachment also has a varied range of tasks. The members sail both at sea and on rivers. They do beach or quay landings and can also provide safety from the water. They are responsible for the transport of personnel and materials in various circumstances, for example when evacuating fellow countrymen via the waterways.

Samuel, one of the team leaders, explains: “During the heavy floods of July 2021, few people were able to sail on such a current, but thanks to our experienced skippers we succeeded and were able to provide assistance to the nation.

“In addition to sailing, we also perform other tasks because we are of course still paratroopers. For example, we jump and participate in tactics on the ground,” concludes Samuel.

All these specialities ensure that the SOED is often used, both nationally and internationally.

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