War in Ukraine: in the footsteps of the French regiment before leaving for Romania

Explosions, then crackling shots. On a plain in Belgium, on a cold and damp morning, a camp occupied by the 4th company of the 152nd infantry regiment of the French army had just been shelled. There is no time to waste: two batteries of mortars deploy in just a few minutes and then strike back at the smell of gunpowder. The wounded are evacuated after a tourniquet is applied, the time of the first treatment is written on their foreheads with a pen – important information for the called up medical unit.

However, no blood is shed and the weapon fires blanks. If the reflexes in the face of a threat are well fixed, the attack is fictitious. In the last days of November “Quinze-deux” takes part in a joint exercise with the Belgian army called Celtic Uprise, which L’Express was able to film. Challenge: Strengthen interoperability with your Atlantic Alliance partner and shore up ahead of the February projection in Romania, another NATO member. It has been a year since France deployed a battalion there as part of its increased presence on Europe’s eastern flank in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

From his command post, in a tent on muddy ground, Captain Blaze coordinates the actions of his troops (200 soldiers in total). “Today we are conducting an anti-insurgency operation,” explains the commander of the 4th company of the 152nd regiment. “We will try to slow down the enemy forces on our territory, bring them to the Meuse and stop them there.” On the screen, he can follow the movement of various sections in real time thanks to the geolocation system. In addition to this, according to the information collected, the enemy forces represented by the Belgian troops.

“Support Operation”

To complete this mission, it is already necessary to eliminate the threat looming over the camp. About twenty soldiers quickly intervened in the area where the fire had started, in a nearby forest, crossing a field with upturned earth. Enemies are not washed away there, but the main thing is different: to achieve optimal coordination and reaction. Already at the end of September, the 4th company was in the Training Center for Urban Action (CENZUB), in Aine, to practice confrontation in the city. She is also due to conduct new exercises in the Vosges next week before heading to the Cincu base in central Romania.

This will be the first deployment for 27-year-old Lieutenant Theo, who arrived in the 152nd last summer, knowing that the chances of a real fight are very small. “This is above all an operation of support, reinforcement and solidarity in a new theater of operations that is not at war, unlike the African theater of operations,” explains this Saint-Cyr military academy graduate. At a moment when the Barkhan operation against the armed groups in the Sahel comes to an end, the French army will reorient itself towards Europe and prepare for a high-intensity conflict, i.e. a confrontation with a symmetrical opponent such as Russia.

The assistance provided by the soldiers of the 4th company of the 152nd regiment is part of the Egle mission. At the Chinku base (700 soldiers deployed in December, with 1,200 to be deployed in 2023), they will have the opportunity to conduct intensive training with other companies, including the operators of the 13 Leclerc tanks that arrived at the end of November. as well as Allied troops. They will not only be Romanian: France is the base country for the NATO Forward Presence Battle Group in Romania. And, as such, she watches a contingent of Dutch soldiers alternating with Belgian troops. It is enough to deepen the automatisms of cooperation that worked during the Celtic Uprise.

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