Gilles Darricau, military governor of Lyon: “The armed forces do a lot for national cohesion”

Almost a year after the Russian aggression, the news is still marked by the war in Ukraine. How is the South-East defense zone that you lead from Lyon impacted by this conflict?

It is necessary to recall the context and the means deployed. France has taken a series of measures intended to demonstrate its solidarity with Ukraine while remaining outside the conflict, since we are neither belligerents nor co-belligerents.

As we speak, as part of the “efp” or reinforced advanced presence system – launched in 2017 – elements are deployed in the three Baltic states and in Poland. There are 2,000 NATO troops in Estonia, 4,000 in Latvia, 3,700 in Lithuania, and 11,000 in Poland. There are French soldiers in Estonia and French planes in Lithuania.

Furthermore, following the crisis, NATO decided to strengthen its presence on Ukraine’s borders, including in Romania. 700 French soldiers are present in the Cincu camp, with a mission of deterrence, defense and also training with the Romanian troops.

Are elements based in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes on the ground at the moment?

The coincidence of the calendar meant that the first elements to deploy in Romania came from the 27e Mountain Infantry Brigade (BIM) based in Varces in Isère and from the 27e Battalion of alpine hunters (BCA) based in Annecy. Another coincidence of the calendar, the 27e Mountain infantry brigade will be at the heart of the French armed forces’ alert system from the beginning of 2023.

© Ministry of the Armed Forces / Review of troops for General Darricau.

“French investment in defense spending is considerable”

France is also committed to training 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers, an announcement made in mid-October by the Minister for the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu. How does this materialize in France?

Ukrainian trainees are assigned to operational units or training centers on the territory, in places that I have no right to reveal to you for protection reasons.

There must be some in the Southeast defense zone?

It’s possible…

The news is also marked by the next Military Programming Law 2024/2030. We are talking about the figure of 400 billion, or 100 more than for the period 2019-2025…

The level of resources allocated by France to its national defense has not yet been decided by the President of the Republic. But it seems imminent, since the Defense Council could arrive before the end of the year.

For a little over 5 years, French investment in defense spending has been considerable, since for the first time in decades a curve which had only known decreases has been bent.

Today, the image of the armed forces is excellent

It’s a form of virtuous circle for the armed forces…

Today, the image of the armed forces is excellent. This makes us an institution observed as a major player in national cohesion. National cohesion which in the law of military programming will find its declension through the ambition to renovate the reserve and a reinforced contribution of the armed forces to the Universal National Service.

One of the objectives will be to improve the recruitment of rare specialists, in the field of cyber, information field…

This means more bridges between the civilian and the military…

Yes, and also more flexibility with us. We are not going to ask the same thing of the computer soldier or of the one who acts in the immaterial field, as of the soldier who carries 60 kg of equipment.


Gilles Darricau in 4 key dates

1984 Joins the special military school of Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan

1991 Helicopter pilot, participated in the Gulf War

2007 Commander of 5e helicopter gunship regiment

2021 Military Governor of Lyon and General Officer of the South-East Defense Zone


“Recruiting is a struggle”

The question of strengthening the reserve opens the door to questions about recruitment issues. Are you facing the same tensions as other sectors? And what is the situation in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes?

The armed forces have again become the leading recruiter in France, with 22,000 soldiers recruited each year, to which must be added 5,000 civilians. Recruitment tools adapt to the realities of a labor market from which we are not isolated. Recruitment is a struggle.

But compared to other allied countries, France manages to fulfill its recruitment plan. Looking at the figures, we can say that Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is a good recruiting ground.

© Julien Verchere

Beyond the military command, what are your missions as military governor of Lyon?

I have different hats, the first is operational. I am in charge of the commitment of the armed forces within the framework of their employment on the national territory, like the command of the troops of the Sentinel operation in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

At the same time, I have a set of prerogatives, in particular to organize relations with institutional and economic players in the region. I often go and speak in university, business and economic circles to explain what France’s defense policy is, our understanding of modern international society…

There is education to be done because if we appear as one of the most beloved corporations of the French, we are aware that we must make efforts to be better known.

Do you have a concrete example of recent action related to the territory?

On October 18, we organized a defense-business day in partnership with the Medef Lyon – Rhône. Baptized IDEE as Innovation Défense Entreprise, this forum brought together at the military health schools of Lyon-Bron nearly 170 SMEs and ETIs around defense actors from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes on the theme of innovation.

“196 housing units will be built by the Army in Lyon”

In terms of real estate, what are the major upcoming projects and projects for the Army in Lyon and the region?

At the level of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, a housing ambition was initiated very recently. There will be 196 housing units in Lyon 7e or in Bron between 2024 and 2030. This desire corresponds to the increase in the workforce in the Lyon basin, mainly with the 942 air base on Mont Verdun and with the military health schools. In addition, 12 housing units are planned in Isère, at the Air and Space School in Montbonnot near Grenoble.

The second part is linked to the restructuring of the Desgenettes hospital, which, as an Armed Forces training hospital, is destined to disappear by the summer of 2024. It will be replaced by an Armed Forces hospital branch. This will lead to a reduction in the workforce, but also to a real estate restructuring.

In two years, we will occupy only half of the current Desgenettes. I was mandated to lead this so-called right-of-way valuation maneuver.

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© General Darricau: “In two years, we will only occupy half of the current Desgenettes.”

The Desgenettes site, in the 3e district of Lyon, is not necessarily destined to remain the property of the Army?

Not necessarily. There are reflections in progress, very regular meetings with which are associated the prefectural services, the local authorities and the representative of the Ministry of the Armed Forces that I am.

BETWEEN US…

A RESOURCE PLACE… His seaside house in the Landes, in his native southwest

A LECTURE… Places of memory, under the direction of Pierre Nora, “a book that describes how France, its history, its values, crystallize through places, concepts, all that constitutes the soul of France”.

AN INSPIRATION… His father, “who was not an officer at all but worked in the civilian nuclear industry”.

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Gilles Darricau, military governor of Lyon: “The armed forces do a lot for national cohesion”