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Forces Spéciales Françaises ~ Album 4

A French Special Forces Commando Marine armed with suppressed HK416 [©BM]

During the recent SOFINS 2019 expo the French Special Forces (Forces Spéciales Françaises) mounted a daily dynamic display of their capabilities, writes Bob Morrison.

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Picking up where I left off – to first visit the US Army Joint Modernization Command at Yakima Training Center and then cover Exercise KEVADTORM in Eastern Estonia – in this fourth album in the FSF series I look at the team from Navy Special Forces (Force des Fusiliers Marins et Commandos or FORFUSCO).

These French Commandos joined the three primary components of Army Special Forces Command (Commandement des Forces Spéciales Terre or COM FST) during the dynamic display at the Camp de Souge SF base near Bordeaux. While this display involving four different branches of the Special Forces may have been a little contrived, designed to show off some specialist abilities of each of the units, the actual scenario of a High Value Hostage Rescue was all too real… as would come to light just last week when two experienced Commando SNCOs gave their lives during the rescue of tourists being held hostage by Islamist terrorists in Burkina Faso.

France’s Commandos Marine, who trace their routes back to Achnacarry in 1942 and the formation of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando in WWII, are the French Navy’s Special Forces and deemed to be the equivalent of the US Navy SEALs. They wear the green Commando beret (their nickname is Bérets Verts) and are highly regarded internationally by other Special and Special Operations Forces on account of their wide operational history.

Believed to total under 1,000 personnel, the French Green Berets are formed into seven individually named Commandos of which two (de Montfort and de Pentenfenyo) specialise in Reconnaissance and Intelligence, two (Jaubert and Trépel) specialise in Direct Action, one (Kieffer) specialises in C3I (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence) plus Training, one (Hubert) specialises primarily in Underwater Operations as well as Maritime & Land Counter-Terror Operations, and the last (Ponchardier) specialises in CSS (Combat Support & Supply).

During the display at Camp de Souge, after Army Special Forces in helicopters and Special Patrol Vehicles had established a perimeter and attacked the insurgents holding the hostage, the Commandos were inserted by COUGAR helicopter to mop up the last resistance and retrieve the hostage. After checking the dead insurgents for valuable intelligence the Commandos led the hostage away, shielding her with their own bodies, and prepared for a hot extraction by AirTEP net under a CARACAL helicopter. By my reckoning, the Commandos were on the ground for roughly four minutes and twenty seconds. The accompanying photos were shot over two days, in temperamental weather conditions, in an attempt to capture the action from more than one angle.

[ images © Bob Morrison ]

Gallery, from top left to bottom right:-

  • This High Value Hostage would be rescued by a combined force of Army and Navy Special Forces
  • The Commandos Marine team, with Army Special Forces K9 handler, was inserted by COUGAR helicopter
  • Covered by the COUGAR loadmaster on the door gun, the Commandos Marine team fans out
  • Army Special Forces secure a perimeter as the Commandos close in on the insurgents
  • The Commandos wear plain tan uniforms and carry suppressed HK 416 assault rifles
  • The team surrounds the hostage while their medics untie her and check her over
  • Moving the released hostage out – note the extraction waistbelt harness worn by Commando on the right
  • Shielding the hostage with their bodies they speedily move her to the extraction point
  • With the hostage shielded in the middle of the group the AirTEP net is prepared
  • The team is extracted by AirTEP – note how all arcs are covered in case of a counter-attack
Fifty metres below the SF CARACAL the team plus their hostage and the attack dog are extracted [©BM]

[ images © Bob Morrison ]

Footnote: The two elite French Commandos who gave their lives overnight on 9/10th May during the hostage rescue mission in Burkina Faso, when four hostages (two French, one Korean and one American) were recovered from the clutches of Islamist militants, were named on Friday in a communiqué by General of the Army François Lecointre as Maître (Petty Officer) Cédric de Pierrepont and Maître Alain Bertoncello, both from Commando Hubert. Our thoughts are with their families and friends.

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