2e REG: 20 years ago, the youngest regiment of the Foreign Legion was born

On the 1st of July 1999, the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment (2e REG), the youngest regiment of the French Foreign Legion, was born. Nevertheless, the embryo of the future unit came into existence as far back as in March 1998. Discover the interesting history between September 1997 and July 1999, which preceded the official establishment of the current 2e REG.

1997: Decision to create a new regiment

In 1984, the very first engineer regiment of the French Foreign Legion was constituted in France: 6e REG (currently 1er REG). It took up the tradition of the Legion (of the French one and even the Roman one) as a force consisting of both warriors and builders. However, the new regiment was tasked also with the modern version of engineering units. Including mine-clearing or using Pontoon and Bailey bridges in support of infantry troops, like did long ago their predecessors from then engineering units of the Legion in Indochina.

Since the mid-1990s, a proposal to establish another engineer regiment of the Foreign Legion had been taken into consideration. In 1997, this proposal became real. A decision of the French Ministry of Defense to create a second engineer regiment of the Legion was issued on September 11, 1997.

It was stated that the youngest regiment of the Legion was to be stationed at the Air Base 200, situated near Saint Christol, on the Albion plateau in southeastern France. This base was established in the region in the 1960s and served as a home to the 1st Strategic Missile Group (1er Groupement de Missiles Stratégiques, 1er GMS), equipped with nuclear ballistic missiles. A dissolution of the group was announced by then French President Jacques Chirac in 1996 (and took place in mid-1998).

 

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1997 - Base Aerienne 200 - Albion - Saint Christol
The Air Base 200 of the 1st Strategic Missile Group near Saint Christol, southeastern France, 1997. The 2e REG will be based there in 1999.

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1997 - Base Aerienne 200 - Albion - Saint Christol
The Air Base 200 of the 1st Strategic Missile Group, 1997.

 

1998: First platoons of the future regiment

Six months later, the first core of the future regiment came into existence, called simply as Engineer Company. It was established on March 16, 1998 in Aubagne, within the 1er RE, HQ of the Foreign Legion. Lieutenant Guillaume de Sercey took command. This officer (alone at the time), coming from 6e REG, would be accompanied three days later with two NCOs (including Major Briganti) and three legionnaires (including legionnaire Conroux) to form officially an embryo of HQ Platoon of the future 1st Combat Engineer Company of the new regiment.

Two weeks later, on April 2, 1998, the 1st Platoon of the company was established in Aubagne. This platoon, also led by Lieutenant de Sercey, was composed of 14 legionnaires having just finished their four-month basic training, supplemented with three NCOs coming from 6e REG. The unit moved the same day to Castelnaudary, to be assigned to the 4e RE, a training regiment of the Legion.

The next month, May 7, the 2nd Platoon was established in Castelnaudary. The legionnaires of the company did their first course, a number of them were designated as future drivers of VAB vehicles and passed their driver licence tests within the 4e RE. In June, the platoons moved to Caylus, a large military camp, for a three-week engineering training, to get the CT04 (Combat Engineer) certificate. The same month, their insignia was designed.

 

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - Aubagne - 1st Platoon - 1ere Section
Lieutenant de Sercey (left) and his 1st Platoon of the future 1st Company, 2e REG lined up in Aubagne, early April 1998.

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - 1st Platoon - 1ere Section - Castelnaudary
Lieutenant de Sercey and his 1st Platoon within the 4e RE in Castelnaudary, May 1998. Several men have already passed the driver licence tests for VAB vehicles.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - 1st Platoon - 1ere Section - Caylus
In June 1998, the two platoons spent three weeks of training at Caylus.

 

1998: Engineer Company, 4e RE

After their arrival from Caylus, the combat engineers of the future regiment were reorganized. On July 11, 1998, they officially became Engineer Company, 4e RE (Compagnie de Génie du 4e RE, CG/4). The unit was nicknamed as “Saint Christol Company” and consisted of HQ Platoon + three combat platoons (3rd Platoon was established in July).

The company was commanded by Captain Pierre Sarzaud, coming from 6e REG. His platoon leaders were Lieutenant Jean-Christophe Reussner, Lieutenant de Sercey, Lieutenant Christophe Bizien and Lieutenant Fabrice Prenveille.

On paper, the Engineer Company should be composed in April 1999 of 5 officers, 18 NCOs and 87 legionnaires, all being specialized as combat engineers, and accompanied with 5 NCOs and 19 legionnaires for administration and logistics tasks. In total, 134 men.

In July, the legionnaires also received first engineer vehicles to serve them for familiarization and training.

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Insignia
The insignia of Engineer Company, 4e RE. It was designed in June 1998, after other 4e RE blue-white insignias having a round shape with a blue star inside (reminding old mounted companies). The insignia bears a helmet & breastplate (the traditional symbol of French engineer units) + a seven-flame grenade of the Legion. It was produced in late 1998. The first insignias were distributed among company members on December 2, 1998. In mid-1999, it became the insignia of the 1st Company, 2e REG.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - Fanion - Pierre Sarzaud - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Castelnaudary
Captain Pierre Sarzaud (right) with the fanion bearer of his freshly created Engineer Company, 4e RE on July 11, 1998.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - Fanion - Pierre Sarzaud - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Castelnaudary
Captain Pierre Sarzaud with his Engineer Company, 4e RE on July 11, 1998.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - Vehicle - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Castelnaudary
First engineer vehicles arrived in July 1998.

 

In following months, the company got a rough plan for improving themselves as quickly as possible. Sports activities twice a day, marches, field exercises with camping outside the regiment, regular firing exercises, driver license tests (very important for a mechanized combat engineers).

In late October 1998, after an intensive three-week training alongside 6e REG companies at La Courtine, another large military camp, all the company personnel had got their CT04 certificate.

In early December, the Engineer Company, 4e RE got their unit insignia. Two days later, on December 4, the unit celebrated their very first Saint Barbara Day, the holiday of military engineers, alongside the 6e REG in Laudun.

 

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - La Courtine
Training at La Courtine in October 1998.

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Raissac - Pierre Sarzaud - Gonzal
Captain Sarzaud, Lieutenant Reussner (wearing an NBC kit along his leg) and Staff Sergeant Gonzal, who was responsible for explosives training of the Engineer Company, 4e RE. They are captured during an instruction at Raissac (a training farm near Castelnaudary), December 1998.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - History - 1998 - Vehicle - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Raissac - Legionnaire
An instruction with explosives at Raissac, December 1998.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1998 - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Saint Barbara - Ste Barbe - Laudun
Engineer Company, 4e RE parade during Saint Barbara Day at the camp of 6e REG in Laudun, December 4, 1998.

 

2e REG’s Detachment-Precursor, 1er RE

Meanwhile, in early October 1998, the very first small group arrived at the air base near Saint Christol, consisting of three members: Lt Colonel Mauras, Adjudant Lefrancois and Corporal Le Floch. They would be tasked with forming a detachment whose mission was to prepare the installation for the HQ Staff of the future regiment (HQ Company – Command & Logistics, CCL).

This HQ Staff was established in Aubagne, and assigned to the 1st Foreign Regiment (1er RE) as Detachment-Precursor, 2e REG. It was led by Lt Colonel Nebois. In early October, the detachment visited their colleagues in the 6e REG.

At the same time, in October 1998, a team within the Kepi Blanc magazine worked on a design of the regimental insignia for the future 2e REG.

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1998 - Colonel Delcourt - GMS - Albion - Base Aerienne 200 - Sant Christol
First three members of the future 2e REG arrive at the Air Base 200 of the freshly dissolved 1st GMS, October 5, 1998. They are welcomed by Colonel Patrice Delcourt (left, black suit), the commander of the base. With the traditional mustache of 6e REG engineers, Lt Colonel Mauras, the head of the future detachment preparing the camp for the 2e REG.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1998 - Etat Major - HQ Staff - Laudun
High-ranking officers of the 2e REG’s Detachment-Precursor, 1e RE visiting their colleagues of the 6e REG in Laudun, October 2, 1998. Left, Lt Colonel Nebois, the head of the Detachment. With mustache, Lt Colonel Mauras. Next to him, with black hair, Lt Colonel Autran, the second commander of the future 2e REG in 2001-03. Behind them, Lt Colonel Ganascia, then the head of the 6e REG.

 

1999: Engineer Company, 4e RE

In early February 1999, the Engineer Company, 4e RE passed successfully the crucial test under the supervision of high-ranking officers of the 4e RE, 6e REG and future 2e REG, to be approved as a professional operational unit.

A few days later, the unit moved for three weeks to the Pyrénées and the Alps to get BSM and BAM mountain warfare certificates, because the new 2e REG was recently designated as a mountain warfare unit.

Between late March and early April, 42 vehicles of the company (including 10 VABs) were sent by train to the air base on the Albion plateau.

In April 1999, after a year, the mission of the Engineer Company, 4e RE was fulfilled. Over 130 men of Captain Sarzaud were well-trained for military operations and ready for becoming a new company of the future combat engineer regiment. Because of this, an interesting decision took place. On April 17, 1999, the company left the 4th Foreign Regiment in Castelnaudary and deployed to Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, for a four-month mission within the 13e DBLE. The unit remains the only 4e RE company being deployed overseas (which was approved by a 1998 law).

 

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1999 - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Mountains
Engineer Company, 4e RE in the mountains, February 1999.

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1999 - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Vehicle - Train
Between late March and early April 1999, over 40 vehicles of the company were sent by train from Castelnaudary to Saint Christol.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1999 - Engineer Company - Compagnie de Genie - Depart - Castelnaudary - Djibouti
Engineer Company, 4e RE leaving Castelnaudary for Djibouti, Africa on April 17, 1999. It remains the only 4e RE company being deployed overseas.

 

1999: 2nd Engineer Company, 4e RE

In April 1999, the 2nd Engineer Company, 4e RE was established within the regiment, to become the future 2nd Combat Engineer Company of the 2e REG. The unit, commanded by (???), would stay in Castelnaudary until mid-July 1999, to be directly reinforced with fresh legionnaires and trained as intensively as their predecessors from the 1st Company.

In June 1999, the 2nd Company (no more than two platoons) moved to Caylus for three weeks. After the training, 31 legionnaires of the unit got their CT04 combat engineer certificate. The company would stay with the 4e RE until mid-July.

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1999 - 2nd Engineer Company - 2e Compagnie de Genie - Caylus
An NCO and a legionnaire of the 2nd Engineer Company, 4e RE during an instruction at Caylus, June 1999.

 

2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment: Creation

On the 1st of July 1999, the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment was created at the air base near Saint Christol. Lieutenant Colonel Pascal Nebois took command. He had led the Detachment-Precursor, 1e RE since October 1998, which was the only unit of the 2e REG present at the air base at the time, now redesignated as the Quartier Maréchal Koenig.

The regiment would become a mechanized combat engineer unit, assigned to the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade (27e BIM) in support of infantry units on operations, and specialized in mountain warfare.

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1999 - Creation - Lt Colonel Nebois
General Sublet (left), the then head of 27e BIM, appoints Lt Colonel Nebois as the commanding officer of the newly created 2e REG, July 1, 1999.

 

In July 1999, the 1er RE’s detachment became the HQ Company, 2e REG, led by Captain Christian Barris.

On July 20, the 2nd Company, 2e REG arrived from Castelnaudary. Three days later, Captain Stéphane Gac took command of the unit. The date of July 20 also marks the official date, when the 2e REG is stationed at Saint Christol.

A month later, on August 29, also the 1st Company, 2e REG returned from their mission in Africa and joined their regiment at Saint Christol. The unit was still led by Captain Pierre Sarzaud.

On September 30, 1999, the 2e REG obtained its Regimental flag. At the time, the unit comprised some 500 men already. It took another two years until the regiment was in full strength.

In late November 1999, a platoon deployed to Kosovo in ex-Yugoslavia for a four-month mission. It was the first official operational deployment of the 2e REG.

In April 2000, a company was sent for four months to French Guiana, while other platoons deployed to Bosnia (also ex-Yugoslavia). The regiment became an inseparable part of the French Foreign Legion. It would illustrate itself several times more in Kosovo, Bosnia, French Guiana or Djibouti, but mainly in Afghanistan, where the regiment would gain its current (2019) fourragère.

Legionnaire Nicolas Conroux, who accompanied Lieutenant de Sercey in mid-March 1998 in Aubagne as part of the small initial embryo, stayed with the future regiment for the next 20 years. He left the 2e REG (and the Foreign Legion) as a Senior Corporal in 2019.

Lieutenant Guillaume de Sercey, the very first base element of the future 2e REG, who started to write the history of the youngest regiment of the Foreign Legion, served with the 1st Company even after the return from Djibouti. In late September 1999, he became the very first flag bearer, as the most senior Lieutenant with the 2e REG. After a well-passed career with the regiment, he finally achieved the highest position and served as the commanding officer of the 2e REG in 2015-17.

Btw, in this position, he replaced Lt Colonel Reussner, who served also as a Lieutenant with the Engineer Company, 4e RE in 1998-99 and who commanded the 2e REG in 2013-15…

Rien n’empêche!

 

2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1999 - Regimental flag - Drapeau - Lieutenant de Sercey
Lieutenant de Sercey as the Regimental flag bearer on September 30, 1999, the date when the regiment obtained it.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 1999 - Regimental flag - Drapeau - Pioneers - Pionniers
The Pioneers of the 2e REG led the parade to celebrate the Regimental flag being handed over to the regiment, September 30, 1999.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 2000 - French Guiana - Guyane
Legionnaires of the 2e REG in French Guiana, mid-2000.
2e REG - 2 REG - Foreign Legion Etrangere - 2015 - Lieutenant Colonel de Sercey
Lieutenant Colonel Guillaume de Sercey, when taking command of the 2e REG in June 2015. Two years later, he excellently finished his career with the regiment. 19 years earlier, in Aubagne in early March 1998, he comprised the very first (and alone) element of the future 2e REG.

 
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Main information & images sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Wikipedia.org

 

 

Related posts:
2e REG: Training in February 2019
2e REG: In the mountains 2016
2e REG: Mountain Commandos in Greenland
1er REG + 2e REG: Sainte Barbe 2017