“The alarm was activated one morning and everything was ready in two days,” French soldiers in Romania report

There are 500 of them. And they have everything to build. Since February 24, the start of the conflict, France has been deploying resources to integrate into NATO plans. For example, since February 28, 500 men have been sent as reinforcements to Romania, at the base of Constantza, about 200 km from the Ukrainian border.

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At this air base, open to all wind, a blizzard to welcome and mud everywhere gives an idea of ​​the circumstances of the arrival of the very first French soldiers, the last weekend of February 2022. Since then, the support groups on the Annecy- The bases of Chambéry and Grenoble are hard at work.

A snowstorm and mud welcomed the French soldiers everywhere at this open air base, open to all winds.  (MATHILDE DEHIMI / FRANCEINFO)

My job is to organize life in the camp, in particular everything that is housing, everything that has to do with the maintenance of the zones, needs, repairs, toilets… The end will be, given the increase in the power, to have enough of everything for everyone.says the chief prosecutor four shotsMajor of the camp. Because we also have to make room for the 300 Belgian soldiers who will sleep with the French. Toilets, drinking water, electricity network, everything has to be built: a dozen containers are placed on a concrete slab to prevent them from sinking into the mud. Inside, the basic equipment and equipment.

Here is the bulletproof vest with belly plate, back plate and the two side plates. Only the vest, it weighs 17 kilos. For a working fighter, with his body armor, his musette, his armament, he can carry up to more than 30 pounds.explains Major Fabrice who is responsible for distribution.You also have the shoes, the jacket and the pants. This is on order for unpacking”, he explains to a soldier. Before specifying: “It’s material for everything nuclear, bacteriological. It is therefore vacuum packed, with an expiration date. It’s a camouflaged military uniform, European theater variegated type, like our fatigues. And these are outfits that we put on top of our outfits.

Major Fabrice is responsible for the distribution of the various materials on site, such as bullet-proof vests, each weighing 17 kilos.  (MATHILDE DEHIMI / FRANCEINFO)

For their part, the fighting soldiers also arrived on the scene, with 250 alpine fighters in particular. And some tell us they were training in northern France for several days when they were ordered to deploy. †A message in the morning: alarm activated, departure for emergency equipment preparation. We had everything ready in two dayssaid Warrant Officer Guillaume of the 4th Gap regiment.As a result, I have only done missions in Africa, this is my first NATO mission. In the bag we do not take the same with us: we do not forget the great cold this time. In fact we are preparing as if we are going to train in Europe, as we usually do.” he slips out.

At his side, his leader, who has put all the weapons on his bed: assault rifle, pistol and ammunition. He leads 25 men in tanks. The soldiers are not the type to give up on themselves, but it is true that this mission is different from the others, admits Chief Warrant Officer Emmanuel: “In 15 years of service, this is the first time I’ve been fired in this way. It’s very interesting: it’s a change from the usual theaters that we used to know. There we are in an international context that is all the more rich, so it is very importantIt feels a little closer to home than usual. It may seem far and close at the same time. We take the plane, we fly quite a few hours, but in the end when we land, we feel it’s the European people, so it can be with us very quickly. We feel concerned. After that, everyone wants it to go no further. We are done

One of 500 French soldiers who arrived as reinforcements at the NATO base in Constantza, Romania.  (MATHILDE DEHIMI / FRANCEINFO)

One question remains: what exactly are the French soldiers going to do? The message from Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly, who came to greet the troops on Sunday, March 6, is clear: to show the cohesion and solidarity of the NATO forces that will protect the borders from Lithuania to Romania. But the battle of Odessa is not far away, the Russians can very quickly reach the other side.

I think we are on a mission that will last a long timesaid Colonel Vincent Minguet, head of NATO’s rapid reaction force in Romania. We are here on the shores of the Black Sea, in Romania. The conflict and gunfights are not far away. At 200-300 km there is the Ukrainian army fighting against the Russian army. Perhaps this is what changes with regard to Kosovo: there are two recognized states facing each other. We defend Europe both within the European Union and at the same time within NATO by defending all its borders.

At the moment there is no precise timetable: NATO could extend this mission in Romania. This will be the subject of discussions on March 16 in Brussels between the relevant defense ministers.