We were near to the half of our mandate. The tempo was still quite high and many guys from the company got malaria. Although we had a some sort of medicament against the disease, it didn’t seem to work as it should have. Or people simply didn’t take it as adviced.
We didn’t stay for a long time in Bambari after Camerone day. The latest order was that the engineer elements should be working next to the infantry units, so the two platoons got different missions. One had to go down and stay in Sibut, the other (our platoon) had to go back to Bangui. We had to put in repair the vehicles and once fixed, join an infantry section for the rest of the mandate. The captain tried to avoid this scenario and keep the company together, but he couldn’t.
Travelling in Central Africa
According to the orders, we departed several days before the rest of the battlegroup to open the way until Sibut. The journey was long and ball breaking, because we had to fix the road for the heavier engines behind us. We could barely move 12-13km an hour, because a rainstorm made the roads nearly impassable.
After a short break, we took the lead of the unit with the P4 (the old French jeep). We were crossing a small village, when we saw a quite big hole in the road filled with muddy water. Some would even have called it a crater than a hole. I was looking at the platoon chief with the obvious question on my face and he just told me: go on.
I gave fat gas and tried to cross the crater, but we realized in 3 milliseconds that it was a bad idea. The hole was almost a meter deep and the muddy water flooded the vehicle. I pulled my legs back by reflex and the car would have stuck in the mud if the lieutenant didn’t start to shout to speed up.
The roads in Central Africa hided some of these kind of surprises. However, it was still less hostile than some areas in Mali for example.
We arrived around 8PM to a small village called Kobadja in the middle of nothing. While we were installing our stuff in an abandoned school building, the other platoon entered the village for a short recon mission. According to an information we got during the mission brief’, a backhoe tractor was needed to fix the road in the center of Kobadja. The lieutenant leading the recon mission confirmed the info and estimated that the task will take a day at least.
The building we stayed in was probably out of use for years. It smelled like shit, but I found it still better than sleeping in the car. I was on guard from 11pm to midnight and when I went back to my camping bed, I couldn’t fall asleep even if I was tired as hell.
The first time during the mission, I was asking myself if it was a good idea to join the French Foreign Legion. This is how I saw my situation back then:
- I’m 20 years old. My friends at home are already bought their tickets for all the existing summer festivals they can go to.
- I was with a bunch of foreigners from everywhere of the world in a village called Kobadja behind God’s back.
- I didn’t have any clean clothes left and I had to sleep on my stomach if I didn’t want to smell the scent of my rotting balls I couldn’t wash properly for several days.
When I think back to this period of my life, it’s hard to believe that Opération Sangaris played an important role in my decision to stay in the military and go as far as possible.