Contact! Contact! Wake up!
It was around 1am. I was sleeping in my camping bed like a child when I heard people shouting and screaming everywhere. Gunfire came from the guards’ direction and thought that the rebels attacked the FOB. I put my chest on, loaded my rifle and when I put my feet outside, I saw the tents 20 meters further burning.
They managed to enter the FOB and we’re under attack, I thought.
People were running everywhere and the fire reached a 20 meters high tree in the middle of the camp. Once the leaves took fire, the scene became even more frightening. I didn’t know what to do. I was just standing between the two tents and staring at the burning tree. The scent of the smoke reached my nose and I heard noises in a weird way like if I were under water.
Or simply, I was just shocked.
Things happened at full speed. For me I was standing there for minutes, but in reality it wasn’t even 20 seconds. The platoon sergeant rushed out from the tent and immediately ordered us to take position behind a bastion wall and stay there.
I couldn’t point my FAMAS anywhere correctly because soldiers were running in every direction in front of me. The platoon sergeant came back a minute later and told us that there is no enemy in the FOB, but it’s a serious conflagration. The gunfire we heard came from the guards to wake everyone in the camp up.
Save everything you can
I felt a lot easier for a second, but we didn’t have too much time to think. We kept a lot of munitions in the tents because there was no other place to stock them. It wasn’t any different for the infantry units either, but they also had anti-tank missiles and 20mm ammo under the beds.
During the next 20 minutes everyone was trying to do his best to save as much equipment as possible. When the firefighters arrived, we moved to the canteen to leave them enough place to rake out the fire.
I was lucky, because I kept my gear just next to my bed and had enough time to take up my pants and boots. Some other guys were sitting in the dining room in a t-shirt and boxer.
We got the first news around 4am. Miraculously, everyone was safe and sound. The half of the new camp burned to the ground, but we didn’t have any casualties.
When we went back to the tents around 5.30am, my first thought was that we’re probably going to wait some more weeks for our rest day.
According to the command’s estimation, the conflagration caused a damage of 1,5M euros. Not an enormous amount for the Army, but it was still a serious problem since the supplies were supposed to go to other bases in the north of the country.
Everyone was working during the whole day, the officers included. The tractors were digging a hole for the debris while the others were filling the dump trucks.
Another dream team
I heard the first rumors about the origin of the fire at the end of the afternoon. According to the story which was confirmed the next day, two helicopter pilots drank too much and wanted to play a trick with a team from an infantry unit. The best idea they had was to threw a smoke grenade into their tent. The only problem was that it sparks when explodes and the tissue of the dry tent took fire immediately.
Fortunately, when they saw that the joke wasn’t as funny as they planned, the two pilots woke everyone up and probably saved many lives.
I don’t know what happened to them later, but it’s sure that they couldn’t continue their career in the French Army.