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French Soldiers Involved in Operation Sentinelle

Photographer: Yoan Valat

 

Following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack on 07 January 2015, the French government launched a military operation called ‘'Sentinelle' and deployed French soldiers over the territory to patrol sensitive areas. Only months later, 130 people were killed and hundreds injured in terror attacks which targeted the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France national sports stadium, and several restaurants and bars in the French capital of Paris on 13 November 2015. In the wake of the attacks, President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency, and increased the manpower of 'Operation Sentinelle' to 10,000 soldiers with 3,500 troops in Paris, 3,500 in the provinces and 3,000 reserves.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the 13 November terror attacks, I wanted to share a look at one day with soldiers involved in this operation. I spent the day with the '1er Regiment de Saphis de Valence' patrolling Paris' 17th district. The logistics of accommodating a troop surge in a populated city like Paris is a complex challenge. An active fire station serves as a daily base for the unit I followed, where the men share their lunches and exercise alongside their firefighter hosts. The standard mission duration is two months with no leave. Some men within the unit are already on their fifth or sixth mission. The medal for Protection of the Territory is awarded to all soldiers after 60 days of service within the 'Operation Sentinelle'.

Tourists enjoying the city of lights often find themselves surprised to be walking side-by-side with military armed forces in the streets of Paris, but for us Parisians it has become commonplace.