‘We will work side-by-side,’ says French Liaison Officer

Article / April 11, 2017 / Project number: 17-0084

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

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Ottawa, Ontario — His service with the French Army’s Marine Infantry (known as ‘des troupes de marine’ in French) brought Lieutenant Colonel Martial de Reviers to Africa and the French territory of New Caledonia, a large island chain in the South Pacific. Both are a long way, both geographically and environmentally, from his current posting in Ottawa. As he says in the following interview, however, his work in the role of Liaison Officer between the French and Canadian armies has shown him that the two have much in common and are ready to work effectively together should the need arise.

Describe your areas of expertise in the French Army.

I was in an armoured regiment in the Marine Infantry, so my background is mostly operational. I was deployed to a Divisional Operational Headquarters in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015. That is when my chief staff officer asked me if I would volunteer to come to Ottawa. I arrived in Ottawa to begin a three-year posting in July 2015. I was previously in New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean and in Africa – in Cameroon where I was a teacher at the International War College, and I’ve been deployed two times to Mali. So I’m pretty used to being posted abroad but this is my first posting as a Liaison Officer. It’s an honour for a French officer to come to Canada because we have strong historic links. The Marine Infantry originated as ‘des compagnies franches de la marine’, which defended French settlements in Quebec in the 17th century.

What exactly does it mean to be a liaison officer?

We are here for different tasks. The main one is to facilitate exchanges between the two armies and building common exercises. For instance, the 3rd Battalion of the Van Doos [Royal 22e Régiment] was interested in jungle training and we are a different army with many jungle training centres — in Martinique and French Guyana for instance. So I helped them to find the right person to talk to. About 50 Canadian Army members went to Gap [a mountainous area in southwest France] to practice skiing and mountain patrols last year. This year, 50 French Army members went into Quebec to practice snowmobile patrols and things like that. We have had very efficient exchanges.

Do you work mainly here in Ottawa, or have you been able to see other parts of the country?

I spend most of my time in Ottawa but the French Army, even the French Joint Command, asked me to be the French eyes on some exercises. For example, during the last Operation NANOOK I was in Whitehorse at the Canadian Army’s invitation. Last weekend I was in Valcartier, Quebec for Exercise RAFALE BLANCHE with the 12e Régiment blindé du Canada. For me, it’s a great opportunity.

How have you found Canada so far?

It’s very interesting. I have not been posted in North America before so it’s a brand new experience for me. When I arrived I was embedded in the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre Headquarters. It’s very good to be part of the Canadian Army team and it helps me to do my job as a Liaison Officer because I have more connections and I volunteer for tasks. For instance, I was in Wainwright, Alberta for the last Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE as an observer for a battle group and it helped me to better understand the Canadian Army.

What, in your view, do the French and Canadian armies have in common and why is it important in general for allies to maintain interoperability?

The Canadian Army and the French Army are closer to one another than they are to the U.S. Army. Our challenges are very similar in terms of resources. For Operation REASSURANCE in Central and Eastern Europe, Canada has sent one battle group headquarters plus one company. France has sent one company too. We are not in the same battle group but we would work side by side if necessary. If the Canadian government commits forces to Mali we will work side by side. So it’s very important to understand what we can expect from allies, the way they do things, and to be able to work together. That is interoperability. And it’s not just a concept. In the coming year we may have two commitments side by side.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

This is the first of two articles on the work of Liaison Officers in the Canadian Army. In the next, we will meet Colonel March Moraes of the Brazilian Army.

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