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Sunday, 13 November 2016
French officer takes top job in British Army - and insists he won't lead our boys to war.
A FRENCH officer has taken command of British troops for the first time in a groundbreaking deal that sees British and French military talent exchanged across the Channel.
The British Army wished Brigadier General Herve Bizeul a warm "bienvenue" as he took up the role in September.
He will fill one of two deputy commander posts of the 1st (United Kingdom) Division, helping to advise and train troops in the UK and abroad.
General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff of the British Army, said his appointment was "another step forward in ever improving interoperability with a very close friend".
Despite his senior role, the French officer is unlikely to command British troops on foreign combat operations.
Brigadier General Herve Bizeul started in the new job in September.
The 1st (UK) Division takes part in rotational deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, but would not be called up in the event of a sudden war with Russia, for example.
The brigadier has been helping UK forces work with French-speaking Tunisian troops and could contribute to the ongoing programme to train more than 25,000 Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State militants.
But Brig. Gen. Bizeul would only command UK troops on the frontline in the event that UK forces were engaged in an unforeseen large-scale, drawn-out conflict lasting several months, a Ministry of Defence source said.
The source added the French officer's main focus was on "training design, training assurance and force deployment" - that is, planning training exercises, ensuring drills are carried out effectively and preparing soldiers for deployments.
NATO training exercises
Wed, June 8, 2016
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty
Polish troops land with parachutes at the military compound near Torun, central Poland as part of the NATO Anaconda-16 military exercise
He has no executive powers and would not be called upon to lead the division if the commander was incapacitated - that role would instead go to his fellow British deputy commander.
A British Army spokesperson said: "This important post and the 17-plus others that are exchanged between the French and British armies demonstrate both countries' long term commitment to providing security at home and abroad."
The French officer is unlikely to command British troops on foreign combat operations
A tweet from the 1st (UK) division
An Army source said at the time he would be "in command of British soldiers and if the general goes on holiday, then he will be in charge. But he won't be manoeuvring us around a foreign battlefield any time soon."
Sharing military expertise - and even staff - has become increasingly necessary as the size and capabilities of Europe's armies have been scaled back in the wake of budget cuts.
The general is the most senior officer to take part in a cross-Channel reciprocal army swap, although 17 French officers are currently on operation with the British.