Being on a French COP added to the adventure of being overseas. The French Marines we were stationed with were seasoned fighters that wanted to engage the local insurgency and do their job. Their deployments were shorter than those of US troops so we got to experience the difference between French Marines and French Army during our 6 months with them.
Once the Marines left, the Army unit that replaced them was only there for a month and seemed to have had an issue with being around Americans. It wasn’t seen in the officer ranks but the grunts had their noses turned up at us for some reason. We just ignored them since they were only a transitional group and did our job but we weren’t impressed by their performance.
The second unit that replaced them was a better group to work with but it seemed like the French don’t produce a lot of big guys in their service. We saw a lot of fit guys, but at 47, I was as big or bigger than 60% of the soldiers that were with us. The food portions may have had something to do with that – all of us lost weight while at the COP and supplementing my diet with protein shakes allowed me to maintain my weight while I lowered my body fat percentage.
I met a soldier named Frenchie (who would have thought) and saw something I never expected – a guy with a tramp stamp. I know tattoos are popular in the armed services and maybe it is a European thing, but something like that doesn’t have the same impact as sleeves or other more macho style body art. I don’t care for one on a woman, so it was disturbing to see that on a guy – kinda makes you question his decision-making skills.
Overall our tour with the French was an interesting experience that I appreciated – it added a new level to what we were doing over there and made for some unique memories – but it was nice when we got the word to pack up and move to another site: a US COP in a more active area. It was at this site where we really earned our paychecks.