Belgian special forces start direct recruitment of civilians next year

The Special Forces Group (SFG), an elite unit of the Belgian army, will start recruiting civilians directly in January 2024. The new fast-track procedure will break with the tradition of soldiers having to undergo paratrooper training before joining the unit.

The new procedure should allow recruits to join more quickly without going through the traditional military career, said Lieutenant Colonel Christophe Comhair, commander of the unit. Currently, active military personnel have to wait three years for soldiers, five years for non-commissioned officers or seven years for officers before applying to join the SFG.

Series of tests

The new selection and recruitment phase will start early next year. It includes an entrance test, a 10-week military initiation period, 16 weeks of professional training, a commando and paratrooper licence, an eight-week basic course, a one-week qualification selection and finally a five-month final qualification course. Those who pass the tests can join the elite unit in May 2026.

The SFG maintains a high level of secrecy, but it is known to have been active during Operation Red Kite in Afghanistan in 2021, following the Taliban's return to power. More than 1,400 civilians had to be evacuated from Kabul Airport.

On Saturday, the deputy chief of staff of the Belgian army, Marc Thys, said that by 2040 the Belgian army should have 40,000 soldiers again, 15,000 more than today. "At least if we do what NATO asks of us," Thys said in several Belgian newspapers.



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