Training for deployment in France

Today, in France, we are confronted by an asymmetrical conflict with no front-line. The terrorist threat is multi-directional, elastic and in constant evolution. However, we can make a distinction, in the framework of our engagements, between advanced defence – at a great distance – on an external theatre, and rear defence – very close – on our national soil. Sentinelle is an operation defending and protecting the rear, our rear, “inside” where a great number of our vital interests are concentrated, principal amongst which are the lives of our fellow citizens. Today, and therein perhaps lies the disruption, there is a continuity of the threats.

Commander of French Land Forces: General Arnaud Sainte-Claire Deville – 17th November 2015

General Arnaud Sainte-Claire Deville, commander of French Land Forces

General Arnaud Sainte-Claire Deville, commander of French Land Forces

Sentinelle is the name given to the operation that consists of deploying soldiers within France’s national borders. You may have wondered how all those men and women are trained. After all, patrolling streets full of citizens going about their daily business is not quite the same thing as flushing out irregular fighters in the deserts of central and northern Africa.

General Arnaud Sainte-Claire Deville, commander of land forces based in Lille, northern France, was auditioned last week by the French Parliamentary Defence Committee. Much of his audition centred on training. FOB has read the verbatim account of the audition. Because it was long we have split our report into two parts. The first part is below. We will publish the second part tomorrow.

General Sainte-Claire Deville explained that before being sent on a Sentinelle mission and “in the month prior to his deployment, every soldier must have undertaken a marksmanship session using his own weapon; a six-hour close combat training session [in other words, how to wrestle someone to the ground]; the use of non-lethal weapons, such as the telescopic baton, the tear-gas canister; the rules regarding the use of force; and, finally, the conditions of how to execute the mission.

Sainte-Claire Deville, the first commander of land forces to be heard by the Defence Committee, has a job that many people think is actually held by the army chief of staff: he is responsible for ensuring that the 66,000 men and women in the French army are trained and sufficiently prepared for the different types of missions they may be employed for. As he told the defence committee on 17th November: “The commander of land forces must allow the chief of staff to have at his disposal at any time and for any duration, units that are organised, equipped and ready to successfully undertake the mission.

So, how is this achieved?

Sainte-Claire Deville explained that the three keys are: job-specific basic training; joint operational training; and conditioning prior to deployment.

The job-specific basic training means ensuring that every soldier acquires and maintains the skills linked to his operational function. It is undertaken in barracks and is the responsibility of each regiment.

The joint operational training aims at obtaining mastery of manoeuvres with other armed forces (air force, navy and/or forces from other nations), which is vital for the success of air/land operations. This is undertaken at specialist centres and is known as “Joint operational preparation”.

Conditioning prior to deployment is when “we adapt training to the operations that have been planned so that the command posts, the joint tactical groups and sub-groups are specifically prepared for the precise conditions to be found on the theatres of operation where they will be deployed,” the General explained. This conditioning is undertaken centrally as it requires important means and coordination with the other armies.

-end of part 1

for part 2 come back tomorrow!