The first French-Spanish mandate

2Lt. Aline Debras
First published in
SFOR Informer#152, November 21, 2002

The Infantry-Cavalry Regiment (Régiment d'infanterie - chars de marine, RICM) took charge of the 18th mandate of the French Battle Group (FRBG) on Sep 24 2002. Now, just a few weeks into their tour, this regiment is facing a new and different challenge: the implementation of a French-Spanish BG, a new experience of multinational co-operation at this level.

RICM was deployed for the first time in Former Yugoslavia in 1992 as part of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), so it wasn't going to miss this historic event. On Nov. 22, the Transfer of Authority between Col. Eric Bonnemaison from France and Col. José Monasterio Renteria from Spain will be a new starting point.
Spanish Partners
As a consequence of SFOR's ongoing restructuring, from Nov. 22 the Spaniards will assume command of half of Multinational Division Southeast for the next 12 months. The staff, some medical services and the Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) cell will be combined. Whilst the administrative support structure for each national group will remain distinct. In addition to these organisational changes, both groups will have to become used to communicating in English when working together on common issues. This will be no mean feat.
An undoubted cultural exchange
As well as the language barrier, these two different cultures will have to learn how to live and work together at close quarters, although it is anticipated that many of their operational tasks are already conducted along similar lines. Sharing the same food, however, is a completely different issue. Fortunately a compromise has been found, thanks to each nationalities traditional customs when it comes to eating times. The Spanish are used to eating lunch and dinner much later in the day than the French. Consequently national tastes will be satisfied with two meal sittings being implemented. However, French Staff Sgt. Fabrice Jaquenaud, who is in charge of the joint mess remarked that: "The Spanish are used to eating two different main courses during the same meal. French soldiers will have to resist this temptation… or do more sport to keep fit and avoid gaining weight."
No matter what challenges this novel collaboration will bring, the soldiers of both nations are ready to meet them head on, and they undoubtedly have the flexibility and determination to make it work.
As stated by Bonnemaison, "this mission is a good forerunner for the future European Army."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: France, Spain
Restructuring and Reserves
Related article: Downsizing and reshaping: a sign of progress

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Handover between Col. Eric Bonnemaison from France and Col. José Monasterio Renteria from Spain.


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Every restructuring needs appropriate fitting-out.


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At least the chefs are ready.


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A French soldier working for the benefit of the Spaniards.