Going to Cyprus became a trend after the missions in Afghanistan. People found out that it’s probably not the best idea to send soldiers directly back home from a war zone. So, the French Army decided to take its member to a 5 stars hotel where they can have a short break.
The first units engaged in Operation Sangaris who left before we arrived to CAR didn’t have the chance to go to Cyprus. But we did.
We took off in the afternoon from the airport of camp M’Poko and made a stop in N’Djamena for refueling. Before landing, the pilot made a tour at low altitude over the city and I found astonishing the difference between Tchad and CAR. N’Djamena was much more like a European city from the air than Bangui. Fortunately, they left us to get off the plane for an hour. I was still sick a little bit, so it made me good to take some fresh air in the Chadian sunset.
I saw the lights of the island a few hours later. We landed early in the morning in Cyprus and our guides were already waiting for us. They were soldiers from the regular French Army in civilian clothes, but if they didn’t tell us, I would have never found out. The ambiance was cool, nobody was shouting, things were just going in a normal way. As never does in the Legion.
Before getting in the bus, we received our room numbers and found out with who we were going to pass those 3 days of holiday. Unfortunately, I had to share the same room with a guy I didn’t like before leaving for CAR and it didn’t get better during the mission. Generally, I found the right way to speak to everyone, but that guy was an exception.
When the bus arrived at the hotel, my first impression was a big wooh. Some guys who have already been there after Afghanistan told us that the hotel is a real 5 stars thing, but for some reason I didn’t believe. I’d have never thought that the French Army will pay a 3-days long holiday in a place like that. Almost everyone got a sea view room with a balcony.
The program was pretty charged. All the platoons had mandatory meetings like the one with the psychologists (individually or in groups), a debriefing with a colonel about our mission, a general info about the things we will have to make attention during the first weeks back home etc… It was long and mostly very boring.
Our platoon had a group conversation with a feminine psychologist which should have initially last a bit more than an hour. Initially…
It happened that she started to ask questions that were completely stupid, so nobody answered. The platoon leader tried to save the situation with some polite and diplomatic replies, but the rest of us remained silent. Her conclusion was that we are too shy and she’s there to help us. She was talking to us like if we were on our death bed and were supposed to die in a couple of days. To change the atmosphere, she decided to pop her questions up on pointing directly the guy she wanted to interrogate.
I was mentally rolling on the floor laughing when I saw that the chosen one was an old caporal-chef, one of our team leaders.
- So, what was the most horrific thing you saw in Central Africa? What kind of events you find extremely shocking during your mission? – asked the psychologist.
- Listen, Madame. I think you can’t imagine the situations we were in during this mandate. I think some moments are gonna stay burned in my memories for ever. Like the moment I saw a French guy going to shit only 6 meters away from our tent. And they took shit everywhere around us! It was horrible. I’m not sure that I’m gonna be able to continue my career like before.
That’s how she thanked us our contribution to the séance and allowed us to leave. She only kept the platoon leader to chat because she estimated that he suffered the most because he had to pass 4 months with a bunch of idiots like us.
This was the end of my first OPEX with the French Foreign Legion. Even years after I’m having mixt feelings about this mission. I didn’t fire a single shot, didn’t see real combat situations, but Sangaris made me love my job. Although that some situations were complicated, I loved doing the work I trained for one and half a year. Before each patrol I was excited to discover a new adventure and work with my team. I made the final decision of a military career after my second mission, but Operation Sangaris in Central Africa contributed a lot to set my future goals.
It wasn’t the easiest decision, but I’m gonna temporarily stop to write the storyline of my career in the French Foreign Legion. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to write as much as I’d like to. Since a while, my actual life situation doesn’t allow me to continue this project as planned, so I decided to take a pause.
However, I’m going to rework on the existing chapters in order to publish a book with exclusive photos and some extra content. So stay tuned!