By Josh Cohen
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
According to Spc. Caylen De Los Reyes, successfully completing the French Desert Commando Course not only improved individual readiness, the demanding training also helped the Vermont Guardsman prepare for the U.S. Army Special Forces Assessment and Selection course.
De Los Reyes, an 11B infantry Soldier with Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry (Mountain), 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Vermont National Guard, is currently attached to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. A few times each year, the French military, who maintain nearby military installations, make the FDCC available to U.S. troops stationed in the region. A rigorous selection process precedes each course.
"Approximately 70 people tried out and only 38 attended the actual course, prequalification included the Ranger Physical Fitness Test, an aquatic obstacle course, rope climb, a 6-mile ruck march and basic infantry squad tactical skills," De Los Reyes said.
Those passing the initial qualification must to complete an additional assessment comprised of an 8-kilometer (5-mile) run and another swim test through water obstacles, he added.
During the multi-national 12-day evaluation, Soldiers undergo a series of challenges including: a mountain confidence course, knot test, night obstacle course, an aquatic obstacle course, squad, platoon and company infantry training exercises, hand to hand combat, and desert combat and survival skills, weapons training, and land navigation. Conducted at the French Army Combat Training Center at Arta Beach, members of the French Foreign Legion run the course.
According to De Los Reyes, "in the most enduring day, we had to perform the aquatic, mountain and combat obstacle courses, one after the other while carrying a fully combat loaded ruck sack from event to event." Familiarization with French infantry weapons and military rations was also provided, "although most meals were American MREs," he added.
De Los Reyes said the experience enhanced his individual readiness, "by acclimation to the weather, terrain, and Soldiers with different military occupational specialties working together, and continual physical exhaustion." Although the French military conducted the course, noted De Los Reyes that "communication was fluid and there were no issues, the French generally take a more head on, less tactically complicated approach in their lanes." de Los Reyes said he recommends the FDCC course to National Guard Soldiers 100 percent.
Those successfully completing the FDCC earn a medal that they may display on U.S. military dress uniforms.