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Anglo-French machine gun training

Members of two of the world’s most prestigious airborne units have been honing their skills and sharing hard-won knowledge in a support weapons cadre on Salisbury Plain Training Area.

Four soldiers from the Anti-tank Platoon of the Corsica-based 2nd French Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment (2 REP) have been hosted by their British counterparts from the Machine Gun Platoon of the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA), building on a close and well-established relationship that already exists between the two units.

They’ve been training together on a range of weapons, including the General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) and the .50 calibre Heavy Machine Gun (HMG), with British instructors familiarising the Legionnaires with their own tactics and procedures.

Lt Tom Shaw, Officer Commanding 2 PARA’s Machine Gun Platoon, said it’s given the troops a valuable chance to gain insights from each other that might one day make the difference on the battlefield.

He added: “They’ve just re-introduced several weapon systems that we operate at the Machine Gun Platoon here at 2 PARA, and it’s an opportunity for us to train with them, and to see how they use them, and for them to pick up anything from us that they want to incorporate into their training back in Corsica."

His younger soldiers have had an understanding of how international allies do their business, and helped them develop their leadership and instructional skills.

Lt Tom Shaw said: “It’s really good for the blokes to gain an awareness of what other militaries are doing, because obviously we do operate alongside these people on multinational exercises. It’s also really good for the more junior members of the platoon to gain experience in instruction, especially the added challenge of having to deal with people who don’t necessarily speak English as a first language."

The senior Foreign Legionnaire taking part, Adjutant Riok Grall (equivalent in rank to a Warrant Officer in the British Army), said despite the linguistic difficulties that can sometimes arise, the troops share the same basic ethos and professionalism, allowing them to work together effectively.

He said: “It’s very similar, there are a few adjustments to be done, so if tomorrow we do go out on a mission anywhere in the world, I do believe 2 PARA and 2 REP would be able to function very easily, because we have the same mentality, and the same way of working. There might be a language barrier, but when you’re out in the field everyone speaks the same language."

British and French airborne forces maintain a permanent operational partnership which stands at high readiness to deploy as the Airborne Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (or ACJEF), on contingency operations anywhere in the world, ranging from war fighting to disaster relief.