39. Chapter – A last training before my first OPEX

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The third platoon left to Mali on a Thursday afternoon

and the rest of the company stayed in St. Christol. I felt lucky, because many other legionnaires had to change the company, because the commandment didn’t choose them to go on mission. Later in my career I found out that it’s a normal procedure and not everyone is going to have a place in an OPEX.

That year the company couldn’t go on a BSM

because the captain didn’t want that someone gets injured in the mountains (he has even forbidden playing football for the platoons going to Central Africa). However, the company got two places in Valloire (2°REG has a little chalet in the mountains next to a slope) for a weekend and I could leave for skiing during two days with the Scandinavian corporal. Since last year, we became friends so it wasn’t something disastrous that I had to pass a weekend with him.

The company had only one big task left

before leaving to Central Africa. A four days long “control scenario” around St. Christol during which the commandment checked if the company is ready to leave on operation. We prepared this “test” for weeks even after 6 PM to assure a great performance.

The column of armoured cars and trucks

left the regiment at 7 AM and a few klicks away we stopped to check an intersection. I was a radioman and the driver of the platoon chief. I didn’t have to leave the PVP until the lieutenant was inside the car. We continued our mission and once we arrived to our “area of responsibility”, we set up a temporary camp and the captain gave his orders.

A corporal with a MAG-58

Being a radio operator is a great opportunity

and allows to learn constantly. I could follow each conversation between the platoon chief and the platoon sergeant and I always knew what was going to happen.

During the day we patrolled by turns with the other platoon in the town and in the forest next to our camp. Two helicopters from the ALAT (French Army Light Aviation) joined the exercise around 8 PM, just before we left the temporary camp.

Our mission was to infiltrate near to a building in the mountains and observe it until sunrise. We arrived at 3 AM and tried to gather as many information about movements in the area as we could. We didn’t see anything until 6.30 AM. The first squad spotted three “terrorists” (played by legionnaires from the 2nd company) and when the platoon chief reported to the captain, he ordered the platoon to engage them.

We launched the assault

“neutralized the terrorists” and checked the building. The lieutenant sent the reports back to the captain and we prepared to quit the zone once the job was done.

The exfiltration in daylight was a nice little walk with friends compared to the night infiltration. We stopped at the edge of a forest and we were waiting for the helicopters. I switched the frequency on my radio and as we heard the aircraft’s rotors.

I tried to contact the pilot

When I got the answer, I passed the phone to the lieutenant and he gave the necessary elements to allow the pilot land safely. We got on the chopper and went back to our temporary camp. We couldn’t rest too much. The other platoon left on a patrol as soon as we arrived and changed them on guard.

The following days continued in high intensity

We did another two missions with the helicopters. My favorite moment was when the cabin member opened the door at 50 meters high before landing. We finished the week with a crowd control exercise. For our biggest surprise, many civilian participated from the village next to the regiment.

This week was one of my favorites

I learned new things, could drill in my specialty and the missions on the helicopter were awesome. I only regret that I had to wait more than 18 months for a great exercise like that was.

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