Page 16 - Cormorant 2019
P. 16

 PAGE 14
Regional Security Exercise 1 – Paris Andrew O’Brian
IN NOVEMBER 2018, 81 students and staff of ACSC 22 visited Paris for their Regional Security Exercise. Our time spent in Paris
proved an invaluable opportunity to understand the cultural and political drivers underpinning the defence policies of one of
our closest allies. L’Ecole de Guerre were magnificent hosts and briefings from the French MOD, Institut National des Invalides (their equivalent of Chelsea Hospital), Gendarmerie and Defence Committee Chair helped us understand both the substantial similarities and considerable differences in approach between our two nations. We all concluded the week fully appreciative of the fact that reading about our allies does not by itself result in sufficient understanding to be the basis of a strong relationship – we need to put the effort into getting to know them on their home ground.
The experience of RSE 1: Paris started a week before our departure. (Nearly) all attendees were lined up in the crisp November weather for ‘sizing’ – that is, attempting to stand in height order to prepare an orderly formation in anticipation of a parade at
the Arc de Triomphe on the (even colder) following Tuesday evening. This was painful; however, it
was eventually sorted and a vaguely orderly – and height appropriate – line finally developed. Then
the stragglers arrived, prompting the exercise to begin anew. Eventually our formation returned to its previous order and we were ready.
Having arrived and settled in, our first engagement was at the British Embassy, a building bought by the Duke of Wellington in 1814 from Napoleon’s sister.
A speech and Q&A session with Lord Llewellyn, our Ambassador to Paris, set a positive tone for the start of our visit. The subsequent drinks reception with the Ambassador and embassy staff left us in no doubt of the mutual importance of our relationship with France.
Fully primed by our engagement at the embassy,
the following morning saw us breakfasting with
our L’Ecole de Guerre counterparts at their L’Ecole Militaire home. We explored numerous topics but the dreaded ‘B’ word was of particular interest to our friends across the Channel. The tone of most such exchanges was vaguely reminiscent of the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ from a bad date.
We were permitted to attend a lecture on ‘The Pity
of War’ by noted academic Christian Monjou. This considered the influence of poetry and art from
the Great War and its influence on wider military attitudes, highlighting the contrast between the relatively philosophical syllabus at L’Ecole de Guerre and the more practically-focussed ACSC. That evening ACSC and L’Ecole de Guerre collaborated for the much-anticipated parade at the Arc de Triomphe. Our mixed group successfully remained in formation during the manoeuvre, resulting in an event that was both emotional and moving. It was also very, very cold. The sub-zero temperatures proved bracing for the UK personnel and positively debilitating for our international colleagues from more amenable climes; however, all survived the experience to be welcomed to an evening reception at L’Ecole de Guerre. During
these events the kindred spirit between our sister colleges was undeniable and the value of such engagement undeniable.
The remainder of our visit was dominated by
briefings from branches of the French government. Presentations from the French MOD’s equipment organisation and their security policy and operations divisions all reinforced the considerable areas of shared interest between our two nations but also highlighted the more US-centric nature of UK
policy. The visit to the immense Institut National des Invalides and briefing by Lt Gen de Saint Chamas demonstrated our cultures’ shared respect for veterans; however, the sheer scale of Napoleon’s tomb and the focus on great individuals reminded
us of the cultural differences. Visiting the Republican Guard division of the Gendarmerie in Paris was particularly enlightening, as there is no equivalent function in Britain. Our visit concluded with a
session with the chair of the French Defence select committee at the National Assembly, emphasising the profound similarity of our respective bodies politic.
Our return to Shrivenham was uneventful, the careful balance of engagement, governmental insight and cultural exploration having given us all a great deal to think about. We have many shared interests
and approaches with our French partners but the intangible differences that shape our outlooks
cannot be ignored. This appreciation influenced the remainder of the course and will undoubtedly change our future approaches for the better.
   Visiting the
Republican Guard division of
the Gendarmerie in Paris was particularly enlightening. ◆◆◆

   14   15   16   17   18