Photos of French and American troops in Afghanistan
The post I wrote about working with the French Army has gotten more attention than almost anything else I’ve written. Many readers, both French and American, have commented here, on breachbangclear.com and on several other sites where my blog was shared. A short email interview with me was published on the French military blog MarsAttaque (http://mars-attaque.blogspot.fr/2013/07/interview-with-us-good-guy-in-bad-lands.html), an honor for which I am extremely grateful.
More importantly, almost every American Soldier, Marine, Airman or Sailor who has commented on my article has praised the French military. A few quotes are below.
“Nice to see someone write about the French Forces in Afghanistan. I was embedded with a US Army platoon who worked hand in hand with a group of French Marine Commandos in Wardak Province. Not once did I witness any cowardice on the part of the French. In fact they were always more than willing to start a fight and finish it with the enemy. Hell, they would damn near run you over to get in the fight!”
“I agree 100% with everything you’ve said about the French Military – I wouldn’t hesitate to serve along side them again.”
“I used to consider making fun of the French a hobby of mine. Then I hung out with a squad plus of French Mountain Troops for about 4-5 hours in Bagram while we were both passing through. I’ve never bagged on the French Military since. Those guys were hardcore, professional, motivated, and f**ing hilarious. I wish I had traded patches with them when I had the chance, definitely a stand up bunch of dudes.”
“I too had a chance to work with the French. There was a foreign legion BN at FOB Tora that was the adjacent unit to us in sector. We planned and conducted several joint operations along the region that divided our sectors, and three of my soldiers earned Bronze Star V’s in a big fight on top of a mountain in the Uzbin valley one night. My impression of them was pure professionalism, with an absolute willingness to close with and destroy the enemy. I came away with a hugely favorable impression of that Battalion.”
“All the French soldiers I’ve had the pleasure of training or talking with have been beyond professional. I put them right alongside the Brits with allies I’d have to my left and right.”
“My experience with the French Air Force has been similar. They are true professionals. Their pilots are very good, though their aircraft are less capable than ours, typically. They have a LOT less bull***t and expect folks to wear big boy pants instead of diapers. They work hard and they play hard.”
I like to think that we veterans who have direct experience will help change the perception Americans have about French troops. We have much in common as soldiers and as nations; France owes America a great debt for what we did in World War 1 and 2, America owes France for their invaluable assistance that helped us become a nation. I think our debts to each other have been paid. From this point forward we should view each other solely as allies, partner nations with proud traditions and prouder histories.
In World War 2 my great uncle Jesse Hernandez was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, and made the Normandy jump. 65 years later I also fought alongside French troops, to defend the same values, nations and people as my uncle Jesse. Whatever views anyone holds about the French, I will always be proud that I lived through those amazing times in Afghanistan, and fought beside brave, dedicated Frenchmen and Americans.
Below are more pictures from Afghanistan, showing American and French soldiers together in training and on missions. All photos are from my personal collection unless otherwise credited.
Me firing a French FRF2 7.62 suppressed sniper/marksman rifle. French Army and Air Force troops, American Soldiers and Airmen in background.
French 1st Sergeant firing an M203.
French sniper firing American Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle.
French female soldier firing American M4. That woman was super cool, carried her gear and did her job without complaint, and was highly respected by me and my guys.
Me firing a French PGM .50 caliber sniper rifle, with a French sniper next to me talking me through it. I managed to hit a torso-sized rock at 980 meters with my second shot. I’m pretty sure that’s because the rifle was so accurate, not because I have any skill.
A member of the Groupment Comando Montagne (Mountain Recon Platoon) with my M14 on a patrol in the Alasai Valley.
Americans and French on a search mission.
A French sniper and me in the back of a VAB French armored vehicle after a mission. I’m wearing a French camouflage uniform with American flags because their camouflage was way better than our ACUs in that environment. That’s a French Marine Regiment patch on my left shoulder. I was proud to wear it. Also, the “horns” in my hair are from the helmet pads pushing the top of my hair down.
One of my soldiers in the back of a VAB. The muzzles of two PGM .50 caliber rifles are to the left (his right). Note the infantry platoon map symbol tattooed on his wrist.
Three of my American friends preparing to leave the wire on a mission with the French. US military photo.
All the above photos are by the amazing French photographer Thomas Goisque. Thomas was a former Mountain Troops officer who embedded as a journalist with his old unit in 2009. He took some of the best combat photos I’ve ever seen, and graciously allowed me to use one of his photos for the cover of my novel Proof of Our Resolve. You can see some of his Afghanistan photos at http://thomasgoisque-photo.com/site.php?page=reportages&spec=def&id=64.
Me and the Mountain Troops at the end of a mountain patrol. Photos by Thomas Goisque.
Me on a mission with the Mountain troops. I proudly wore the Mountain Troops patch until the French Marines came in and threatened to beat me severely for not wearing theirs. Photos by Thomas Goisque.
Me on much-needed break during a patrol with the Mountain Recon Platoon. They had dragged me up a mountain the day before and I barely made it. On this mission, they told me “Don’t worry, we’re just going on a short patrol down a road. Just a few kilometers.” I agreed to go, and those jerks somehow veered off the road and headed at an angle up the side of a mountain, then circled around over the top, and wound up dragging me along the same route we had been on the day before. I kept up that time though. That was a proud day for me.
On patrols and inside the wire during a short stay at an outpost in the Alasay Valley.
This is one of my favorite pictures. One of my team members and a French soldier on a mission. Those two became good friends and were always excited to see each other, despite the fact that my soldier didn’t speak French and the French soldier didn’t speak English. Photo by Thomas Goisque.
Me and one other American on a patrol in the Tagab Valley with the Mountain Recon Platoon. I freakin’ love this picture. Photo by Thomas Goisque.
American Soldiers and Marines with French and Afghan troops. US Military photo.
During the “Even God hates us” mission, where three French troops were killed by a hailstorm. This was taken while we were overwatching French troops as they searched for two men swept away in a wadi.
In the VAB at the end of the “Even God hates us” mission. Yes, I look terrible. I think I was more exhausted than I had ever been in my entire life. The guys back at the firebase were worried as hell about us; when we got back to the firebase, one of my soldiers hugged me as soon as I got out of the VAB.
Me with a French sniper and spotter.
Desperately searching for a target during a firefight in the Afghanya Valley, Kapisa Province. Right around this time, we were getting shot at from several directions. Rounds were zipping over our heads. And I never saw a single enemy, never saw muzzle blast, never had even a hint of a target. Photos taken by the French sniper team leader.
Looking past my rifle into the Alasay Valley. Afghanistan was probably the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life.
French and Afghan troops advancing into the Alasay Valley. I’m pretty sure that’s me on the right, in the humvee turret. Still from a video by Thomas Goisque.
ADDED 24 JULY
Several people have asked me a very important question about the French army: “Are the French women beautiful?”
Yes, they are. Here’s the most beautiful of all.
This was taken at our epic halloween party, not long before I left Afghanistan.
But here’s a better example of an angelic-looking Frenchwoman. Photo by Thomas Goisque.
That’s all for now. I hope you guys enjoyed seeing a little bit of my Afghan War.
Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).
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Tags: Afghanistan, french army, veteran writers