More than 35 U.S. forces joined French Cadets, infantry and legionnaires to negotiate the French Desert Survival Course April 25 to May 10, in Djibouti.
The course exposed the forces to the fundamentals of desert combat, survival and troop movements while bridging language and cultural barriers between French and American troops. This evolution of the course also adds two U.S. Air Force instructors to the French instructor team.
“Not only does it teach infantry movements in the field and seizing different objectives, it teaches teamwork and camaraderie,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Eiden, a course instructor from the Air Force.
“[U.S. forces] get the opportunity to be here because we’re stationed at Camp Lemonnier and the infantry battalion has built good relationships with the school. It’s been valuable integrating U.S. and French assets together.”
Ludwig Grandjean, of the French 1st Cavalry Regiment, Foreign Legion, serves as a platoon leader for French troops participating in the course.
“When I work with American units, I see how you work against the enemy,” he said. “It allows me to improve my [skill]. It also gives me the opportunity to show you what the French can do underground against an enemy and [how] we can change, adapt and improve.”
Joint training in austere environments is beneficial, as the Djiboutian terrain is similar to that of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali, he said.
Parts of the course had students learning how to collect water in the desert, make bread, and rice, find sources of meat, and learn other skills that could save their lives in the desert.
“In many conflicts and operations, we are working together, so this type of training in Djibouti allows us to discover other units and gives us an opportunity to prepare for future engagements and operations,” Grandjean said.
Grandjean emphasized the more French and U.S. forces learn about each other’s skill sets, joint operations will become easier.