French comments on US military
Friday, December 18, 2009
We at Blackfive have a long history of showing love to our French allies. Actually since Sarkozy was elected it has been kinda fun to have them back on the team. Here is an article about what their troops think of ours. Good stuff.
Subject: French view of US Military by Jean-Marc Liotier
American troops in Afghanistan through the eyes of a French OMLT infantryman
The US often hears echoes of worldwide hostility against the application
of its foreign policy, but seldom are they reached by the voices of those
who experience first hand how close we are to the USA. In spite of
contextual political differences and conflicting interests that generate
friction, we do share the same fundamental values - and when push comes to
shove that is what really counts.
Through the eyes of that French OMLT (Operational Mentoring Liaison Teams)
infantryman you can see how strong the bond is on the ground. In contrast
with the Americans, the French soldiers don't seem to write much online - or
maybe the proportion is the same but we just have less people deployed.
Whatever the reason, this is a rare and moving testimony which is why I
decided to translate it into English, so that American people can catch a
glimpse of the way European soldiers see them.
Not much high philosophy here, just the first hand impressions of a soldier
in contact - but that only makes it more authentic.
Here is the original French article,
http://omlt3-kdk3.over-blog.com/article-22935665.html and here is my
"We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while - they
are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose
name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it
is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them,
and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most
renowned units of the US Army - one that the
movies brought to the public as series showing "ordinary soldiers thrust
into extraordinary events". Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how
is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT
Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on.
This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support
company. They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of
view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have
to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying
various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are
from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis
situations they have difficulties understanding each other.
Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and
creatine (Heh. More like Waffle House and McDonalds) - they are all heads
and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our
frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of
us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.
Here we discover America as it is often depicted: their values are taken
to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity and the loneliness of this
outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything
here reminds of that: the American flag floating in the wind above the
outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often
originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here
has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner.
Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides
them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote
front-line location: books, chewing gums, razor blades, Gatorade, toothpaste
etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people
backs him in his difficult mission.
And that is a first shock to our preconceptions: the American soldier is
no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all
his attention. And they are impressive warriors! We have not come across
bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French
people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of
them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the
wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap,
helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost
never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden
tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full
battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the
directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like
statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the
dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence
of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered -
everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy
And combat? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming
to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the
shortest delay. That is one of their tricks: they switch from T-shirt and
sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the
enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting: they just charge!
They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions
later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.
This is the main area where I'd like to comment. Anyone with a passing
knowledge of Kipling knows the lines from Chant Pagan: 'If your officer's
dead and the sergeants look white/remember it's ruin to run from a fight./So
take open order, lie down, sit tight/And wait for supports like a soldier./
This, in fact, is the basic philosophy of both British and Continental
soldiers. 'In the absence of orders, take a defensive position.' Indeed,
virtually every army in the world. The American soldier and Marine,
however, are imbued from early in their training with the ethos: In the
Absence of Orders: Attack! Where other forces, for good or ill, will wait
for precise orders and plans to respond to an attack or any other
'incident', the American force will simply go, counting on firepower and SOP
to carry the day. This is one of the great strengths of the American force
in combat and it is something that even our closest allies, such as the
Brits and Aussies (that latter being closer by the way) find repeatedly
surprising. No wonder it surprises the hell out of our enemies.
We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are
performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing
American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that
everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours
before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been
given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to
those who liberated France and Europe.
To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and
who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the
daily tribute of America's army's deployment on Afghan soil, to those we
owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of
them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band