There were a great many stars and stripes on the sleeves of the overwhelmingly masculine guests yesterday afternoon, gathered under a hot sun on the parade ground of the technical section of the French Army (known by its French acronym STAT), to bid farewell to its director over the past four years, General Charles Beaudouin. He will be replaced on 1 July by Colonel Rémi Fouilland who will rise to the rank of brigadier on the same date.
FOB had been invited so we heard General Bertrand Houïtte de La Chesnais, deputy chief of staff of the Army (confusingly for Anglo-Saxons his job title is Major-General of the Army but it is a position not a rank), remark that under Beaudouin’s incisive and forthright leadership the STAT had ensured, together with the French DGA procurement agency, that the military materiel delivered to its soldiers met their requirements and was delivered on time. And to demonstrate the joint nature of many of today’s military operations, Beaudouin’s counterparts from the navy (CEPA, based in Hyères) and the airforce (CEAM, based in Mont-de-Marsan), respectively Captain Benoît Hédé-Haüy and Air Commodore Jean-Pascal Breton, had come up from the South of France to Versailles for the ceremony.
Amongst those dressed in business suits rather than uniform I recognised Stéphane Mayer, the CEO of Nexter, whose main site is just a hop and a skip away from the STAT.
Beaudouin, in his speech afterwards at the cocktail, repeated what I’ve heard him say before: “it’s better for our soldiers to get good equipment now, than excellent materiel tomorrow.” La Chesnais laughed that Beaudouin’s upcoming spell at the Joint Chiefs of Staff HQ will be an occasion “to rest” before his next appointment…