Author Sébastien Vogt
It was a comic situation and every time I think about it and I see the scene I chuckle.
In those remote times, I was still young. We were training not far from the barracks at Frejus in what we called the “gastes” land.
Basically it is a little hilly terrain, crossed by some paths used by both civilians and soldiers. This is where we run in the morning, that’s where we tried our first rounds in P4 when we had not yet the license but we wanted to try, that’s where we did the first bivouacs during the classes, this is where we trained to patrol, this is where we made fake checkpoints to control fake terrorists in real old cars … The vegetation is still there quite low. There were big fires in Frejus in the 80s (1981 or 1982 I believe for locals) and the whole area was burned down. Suddenly 20-25 years after the nature gradually took over his rights with a lot of small bushes that sting everywhere, bush, some tufts of grass …
We were “training in combat”, a term that might make some civilians dream, but it is actually extremely boring. Did you see that scene in Forrest Gump when they all walk in single file, Lieutenant Dan in the lead who suddenly raises his fist? Everyone throws himself flat on both sides of the track, everyone looks at each other, no one knows what’s going on and the slogan “lie down, shut up” goes around along the column. Do you have this scene in mind? That’s what our training was like. We were walking in full smoke along a dirt road. The sweat that stings the eyes, the camouflage makeup melting little by little, the unbearable weight of the metal helmet that fries the skull, the strap of the weapon that shears your shoulder, the long time empty gourd… Côte d’Azur in summer is good only for tourists! In short I really did not care about this training, this false recognition, where we had to pretend to look well in front of us in case there are mines, to look well in the distance in case there are bad guys, speak well by sign in case the wicked listen to us and make good progress in each passage of a damn clearing.
At one point, my whole group crouched in the ditch by the roadside for some reason (I had turned off my radio to save the batteries, if the other team leader wanted to talk to me he would send me a text message, I do not think that Frejus use an encrypted network was absolutely necessary), I hear this distinctive sound of a guy who is typing on his headphones. I raise my head, some meters ahead of me one of my guys raises a finger. The signal to say that his team leader is called to report something. I signal to him that he has my full attention, finally all the attention that I was able. I was expecting a bullshit style “clearing on the right, cover me” or at worst “I want to pee wait for me” (yes, we also have signs to say this stuff!). Instead, I see him pull out a grenade and wave it in the air, then put it away and do a kind of mimicry as if he were holding reindeer and galloping. There for once … I did not understand. He’s starting again. I start to smile because he was so ridiculous. If you had seen this scene. And this message in a loop: the grenade and the gallop. I turn on my radio and wave to him to talk to me
– … ral … bom … val … »
French equipment, rotten connection, even at 10 meters. Finally he gets angry and puts his hands in a megaphone … well.
-Caporal! There’s a fucking bomb on a horse! “
I took 2 seconds to understand, in fact I really understood only by turning my head. On the track there was a civilian riding a horse. Very pretty, it’s true. That’s what he was trying to mime. The funny thing is that when he decided to yell (and for once it’s good the whole section has received so much he yelled), said rider was right next to me! I had not asked anyone and it was me who looked stupid. I said a little “sorry” to the rider but she had already put me in the box “military weirdo”, it was no longer worth stressing. Months later, taking out a grenade and shaking it made us all laugh. And when I still see Jeremy miming his horse! That it was funny. However, we never saw the rider again, she had to find another area to walk, far from the stupid guys of 21 … and she was right!