French army seen by an US Army Officer in A-Stan.
For about two months now I have been working side by side with the French OMLT. I remember when I first showed up to take charge of the combat outpost my unit was located at and I found out it would not just be American forces there but also a small section of French. Being the typical American I was making jokes in my head about the French Army. These last two months have truly been enlightening for me and corrected a grave misconception of the French Army.
Let me say this first I am not envious of their job. Being responsible for training and mentoring the Afghan National Army (ANA) is a job that can only be described as herding cats. Having only worked with the ANA on a couple of missions I have come to realize that the OMLT must have the patience of a Saint. I seriously doubt that I would have the patience to do the job they are doing and I don’t think I could do it nearly as well. Their patience was also displayed almost every night while dealing with me and my soldiers. Due to the rough living conditions some of the OMLT were living in a tent that also housed our television. Although we would try and remain quiet and respect the fact they were sleeping it didn’t always work that way. Too many times while watching a close football game we would begin screaming and yelling over the game. Somehow each night they never yelled at us and never complained. Their patience in dealing with us alone can be considered amazing.
The French willingness to help is amazing. No matter where we, as the American Army, would go the French Commander located at my base would always try to arrange support from his OMLTs and the ANA they were training. Their willingness to support our guys made my job a lot easier and gave me a better feeling knowing that the French OMLT and ANA were watching our back. On more then one occasion we would respond to a situation and when we reached the location the French would already be there and would give me the current situation on the ground.
The French always seem to know what was happening. As an American I, like my fellow Americans, take pride in what we do and think that everything we do is the best. I will have to say when it comes to the French Intelligence versus American Intelligence the French have us beat. All too often the French Commander would come to me and ask if I knew about a situation. I would be forced to stand there and give him the confused puppy look. Typically about thirty minutes after the French told me I would finally get the same information from the American Intelligence. This proved to extremely valuable on more then one occasion. American convoys on several occasions were struck by an IED in which we were informed immediately by the French. Thankfully for their quick reporting we were able to come to the aid of those convoys in a timely manner. Luckily in each case there were no severe casualties however if there had been our ability to quickly respond, due to French information and reporting, would have saved lives.
The French have a handicap; they do not have the training, resources, money, and assets in their military the same as Americans. They have been forced to make due with less and they have still managed to out perform us in some ways. The French military is a force that commands the respect of everyone else in the world. I can’t imagine what they would look like, and how truly incredible a force they could be, if they had the same training, resources, and assets. These past few months have truly opened my eyes and corrected a few misconceptions I’ve had about the French as an American. Although they are not as big as us and sound funny when they talk I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity, and I am honored to call these men my comrades and friends.
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