A PARATROOPER has built bridges with our continental neighbours after two weeks of urban warfare training among French soldiers.
Private Ashleigh Minghan, of Waterlooville, took part in the training exercise with the French army as part of a new defence pact between Britain and France.
The 22-year-old, who serves in Colchester-based 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (3 Para), was involved in Exercise Gaulish Eagle at Centre d’Entrainement aux Actions en Zone, a specially-designed urban warfare training centre in north-east France.
The two-week war games saw 3 Para train with the tanks of the 1er Régiment de Hussards Parachutistes, with the aim of improving the ability of the two armies to operate together.
It comes after Britain and France signed a landmark 50-year treaty on defence and security that envisages the joint use of a 10,000-strong expeditionary land force, navy aircraft carriers, and unprecedented co-operation on nuclear missiles.
Pte Minghan got to grips with the Giat Famas assault rifle, the standard weapon of the French Army, and learnt French tactics and techniques for military operations in built-up areas.
He said: ‘It was a challenging exercise because it’s different to the normal training we do.
‘We’re using French weapons and their approach to fighting in urban areas is slightly different to how we operate, which is interesting.
‘As paratroopers, we’re not used to working with tanks so that has been something new to learn as well.
‘Communicating with the French troops has been a challenge at times, but we’ve got by with a few words of French and lots of hand signals and sketch maps.’
Pte Minghan, who attended Purbrook School, is a keen boxer and has been in the army for just under year.
He said: ‘I only joined 3 Para about six weeks ago and it feels like I got put straight on the boat out to France.
‘It’s a good opportunity to get to know everyone and show them what I can do.’
During the exercise, the soldiers enjoyed a day out in Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.