The company got a week off in March before going to Central Africa
In a normal situation, we can leave for 2-3 weeks before an operation and for 3-4 weeks after. It depends a lot on how the commandment organizes the unit’s program. I was happy with the week off, because I didn’t think that I’ll be allowed to leave.
When a company is going somewhere abroad
the atmosphere becomes “weird”. Everyone wants to go, but a mission is never 100% sure. In the same year, a platoon went to Chad, passed a week there and went back to France right after because the commandment found out that they don’t actually need an engineer platoon at the moment.
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Naturally, you tell your friends and family that probably you are leaving for a while. It’s normal, because you won’t be available for an indeterminate moment especially when you are going to a new area. This uncertainty raised the pressure in the company and people became less patient with each other.
A couple of days after the holiday
we put our stuffs in a bus and went up to Paris. We slept a night in Fort de Nogent. It was very strange to be there 18 months later as a legionnaire going on a mission. I didn’t forget a moment I passed in that fortress and I was happy that I reached my goal and became a legionnaire.
The night was short and I didn’t sleep well. We woke up at 4.30 AM, checked the passports and dog tags for a last time and went to the Charles de Gaulle airport. We got on a military plane and it took off for a 7 hours long journey. I slept a bit after lunch, but woke up over Chad.
I’ve never been in Africa before
so I didn’t take my eyes off the landscape. The plane landed next to the Camp M’poko in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. The warmness and humidity punched me in the face when I left the plane. The difference was huge between the weather in Paris and Bangui, but I didn’t mind the early summer.
A truck came to bring us to the FOB (Forward Operating Base) and before going anywhere, we took up our equipment. Once everyone had his helmet and bulletproof vest, we went to pick our FAMAS up from the boxes. My platoon chief, other officers and NCOs arrived a few days before us. They kept a quick briefing about the current situation in Bangui.
Since the two French soldiers from the 8th Regiment of Marine Infantry Parachutists have been killed in December, the global situation didn’t get much better. The guys from the previous mandate (from the 17th Parachutists Engineer Regiment) warned us to keep close the helmets and the rifle during the night. Apparently, the militia forces harassed people around camp M’poko and shot at the guard posts.
After dinner I arranged my stuffs and tried to prepare my gear the best possible. I’ve never had that quantity of ammo and grenades in my possession at the same time. Around 8 PM we got the orders for the next day and after I went straight back to my squad’s tent and passed my first night ever in Africa.