Interview with chief of SAED in 2°REI
Lieutenant Philippe, 35 years old, is the head of the Dismounted Engagement Support Platoon (SAED – Section d’aide à l’engagement débarqué) of the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment (2nd REI – regiment étranger d’infanterie). After a career as a non-commissioned officer in the 16th light infantry battalion, he decided to sit for the OAEA (active officers of the schools of arms) exam while still a warrant officer. After a year of training, he chose the French Foreign Legion, specifically the 2nd REI based in Nîmes, which he joined in 2020. A few months later, he took command of the SAED.
For him, it was a radical change. “I wanted to challenge myself. Becoming an officer is one thing, but in the Green Berets it’s a complete change of worlds! The beginnings are difficult, as you lose all the bearings acquired from the “regular”, and must fit into the Legion’s mold. However, the integration is done with kindness and the officers are always present to accompany and guide us”.
What is SAED?
SAED is a platoon created within the infantry regiments of all Army units. The personnel are selected and trained for the specific missions entrusted to it. “It’s a bit like the ancestor of the infantry commando groups (GCI) that existed in some units about 15 years ago,” says the young officer.
SAEDs were created about ten years ago to provide corps commanders with an additional resource for conducting intelligence or combat actions for the regiment or even the brigade. This “commando” structure provides a very autonomous unit, equipped and trained to fight inside enemy lines.
Its place in the regiment and its main missions can be compared to those of the 11th BP or 27th BIM parachute or mountain commandos.
What is the mission of SAED?
“We have two main missions,” explains Philippe. “We are primarily an intelligence resource preceding the major operations of the regiment. Our ability to infiltrate allows us to arrive ahead of the action to inform the commanding officer of the details of future actions to be taken. Our second mission could be described as ‘shock’. Either inside the enemy’s position to destroy a particular target or to facilitate the force’s advance.” For the SAED of the 2nd REI, attached to the 6th light armored brigade, missions in the lagoon environment are one of its specificities, as are for the SAED of the 21st RIMa.
SAEDs have since the beginning of 2021 been integrated into the Falco missions in Mali. This mission is an integration of the SAEDs into a mix with the GCM Spartan and GCP Cobra missions. Attached to the Desert Aero Combat Battle Group (GTD-A), Falco provides the Barkhane force with a highly trained, mobile unit capable of performing a wide range of missions. The commandos are capable of conducting in-depth reconnaissance, sometimes over long periods of time, but also of providing a QRF to carry out specific missions, particularly combat actions against an identified enemy.
The creation of Falco has several advantages: it gives “a bit of air” to the GCP and GCM who have been self-reliant in the theater for years. It also allows, thanks to their experience, an increase in the quality of SAED’s young units.
How to join SAED?
Being an elite unit of the regiment, SAED conducts a rigorous selection process before accepting new soldiers. “It depends on our numbers, therefore on our needs,” says the platoon chief. “There is usually one selection per year. We obviously assess physical and psychological fitness, combat ability and theoretical knowledge of the candidates, but above all, we attach great importance to their state of mind.
Soldiers in the platoon must show great autonomy, but also a very strong capacity for integration. It is a small group where each one has their place, strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the SAED lies in its aggregation. A small detail specific to the Legion is that we ask candidates to have a good level of French. Very young legionnaires are rarely selected, even if some of them may already have a solid experience in other army units. We give preference to soldiers with experience in combat companies. SAED is and must remain a sort of culmination, the unit one dreams of joining one day through hard work and perseverance”.
Equipment and training of SAED
SAED training is daily at the regiment. Theoretical courses, sports, shooting, day and night combat simulation. In addition, SAED trains with the other specific units of the brigade grouped within the GAEA (Amphibious Engagement Support Group). The GAEA meets several times a year for joint training at military camps, as well as during commando training courses such as at the Amphibious Combat Instruction and Training Center (CIECA – Centre d’instruction et d’entraînement au combat amphibie) in Fréjus.
SAED benefits from the equipment plan for specialized units. This allows it to have OPS CORE type helmets, specific vision or transmission systems. Today, the weaponry is the same as that used by the French army: Glock 17, HK 416 and 417 and SCAR L.
Any last words of advice?
“In addition to good physical and mental preparation before joining the SAED, you must also be honest with yourself. Be prepared to challenge yourself every day, have the desire to evolve within a group and be there for others. To accept that, whatever the rank or function, anyone can have THE right idea when it comes to carrying out the mission and therefore to listen to it. Finally, you have to keep trying. Believe in your abilities, and say to yourself: I’m going to do it and failure is not an option; that’s the best way to succeed.”