Paratroopers Make French Connection
British paratroopers have been working alongside French airborne cavalry on a joint exercise to improve their urban fighting skills and develop co-operation between the two armies.
Colchester-based A Coy, 3 PARA has been working with the tanks of the 1er Régiment de Hussards Parachutistes (1er RHP) at Centre d’Entrainement aux Actions en Zone Urbaine (CENZUB) in north east France, the largest urban warfare training facility in Europe.
Ex Gaulish Eagle which took place between 4th-16th March 2012, was designed to provide 3 PARA with experience of urban operations and working with other armies to prepare for its role in the Airborne Task Force (ABTF).
The first part of the exercise saw paratroopers train with the Giat Famas assault rifle, the standard weapon of the French Army, and learn French tactics for working with Leclerc main battle tanks in built-up areas.
The training culminated in a field exercise with the two units working together to attack and defend CENZUB’s two purpose-built training towns – Beausejour and Jeoffrecourt – which include different districts imitating retail, residential and industrial areas.
Maj Richard Todd, OC A Coy, said: “As the Airborne Task Force 3 PARA is on standby to go anywhere in the world to do anything from disaster relief to war fighting. On an ABTF operation it is likely that we will be working alongside other armies in an urban environment, so this training has been excellent preparation for us. This has also served to strengthen the relationship and understanding with our French allies. We’ve used their kit and tactics and working with the tanks was an enjoyable challenge.”
Pte Dave Cheshire, said: “It was a tough exercise because it’s been so different. We’re using French weapons and their approach to fighting in urban areas is slightly different to ours. Also, as paratroopers, we’re not used to working with tanks.”
Pte Damien Miles, said: “Communicating with the French troops was a challenge at times, but we’ve got by with a few words of French and lots of hand signals and sketch maps.”
The training builds on the two countries’ military co-operation
following the signing of the Defence and Security Co-operation Treaty by Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in November 2010.
3 PARA is part of 16 Bde which has been tasked with building a partnership with the French 11e Brigade Parachutiste (11e BP). The two brigades are working towards the formation of a joint expeditionary force for contingency operations.