Grassroots: French civilians enrol in military training en masse to counter terrorist attacks
A Euronews report published on 28 April, seems to describe a grassroots military mobilisation trend unheard of in modern European times.
“Students, office workers, liberal professionals, and entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 40 have decided to dedicate their spring holidays to a military training course at a gendarme camp, in the French city of Toulouse.
The number of volunteers has soared in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in France.”
The trainees undergo practical and theoretical courses. Those who elect to join the French reserve forces can (and very likely, will) be called upon to assist the French army or military police for 30 to 150 days a year.
One army instructor doesn’t mince words:
“What happened at the Bataclan, what happened in other places, like in Germany, etc., could happen to you tomorrow. You must also tell yourself one thing and that is that you might not come home tonight, you have to be aware of that.”
Bernard Blondeau, a Lieutenant-Colonel at the Gendarmerie Operational Reserve, elaborates:
“Today, mentalities have evolved. We see it with the young and the not so young, who have decided to give their time to French society and in particular, to protecting the population.”
Besides contributing to the kinetic security of their country, trainees also describe a perceived cultural value. Cadet Chloé Chiron says:
“It is important to have young people who share the same values, French values. It’s very important, since it forges a society, and that’s why we’re here.”
One cadet of North-African origin, Najib Belkaci, also conveys a sense of cultural urgency:
“Those who carried out the attacks were of Maghreb origin. I have my origins and I felt even more targeted because of that, so I wanted to make it clear that we are not all alike, that we do not all think the same way. And if I can give my free-time and help the French, because I am French, then there’s no problem, I’ll give my free time.”