France calls on all willing citizens to become reservists

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has called on citizens to become reservists, in a bid to help boost security forces in the wake of the country’s latest terror attack.

France’s “operational reservists” include French citizens with or without military experience as well as former soldiers.

“I want to call on all French patriots who wish to do so, to join this operational reserve,” Cazeneuve said.

His call comes after the government has been criticized for not doing more to stop attacks.

French President Francois Hollande said on Friday that reservists would be called upon to boost the ranks of police and gendarmes.

The operational reserve is currently made up of 12,000 volunteers, 9000 of whom are within the paramilitary police and 3000 in the regular police force, said Cazeneuve.

“We are going to reinforce the presence of security forces across the country,” he added.

He said the number of security forces deployed to protect the population was nearly 100,000, including 53,000 police, 36,000 para-military police and 10,000 soldiers.

France’s reserve forces

France has had two types of reserve forces: an operational reserve and a citizens’ reserve. However, French reserves barely total 20,000. France also has a militarized police force, the gendarmerie, with a potent, 40,000-member reserve of its own.

The operational reserve, composed of volunteers or former soldiers, is the only one of the two that is a true operational reserve. These volunteers serve one to five years in the reserves, with one-third of them available for mobilization within two weeks. Soldiers leaving active duty in the French Army are required to serve up to five years in the operational reserve and may serve both in France and abroad, each member receiving several weeks of training per year.

They are organized in about 100 company-sized units called Reserve Intervention Units, in addition to a small number of so-called Reserve Specialized Units of similar size. During a crisis, their duties in support of the civil authority include providing general reinforcement of public order forces, aiding the population and maintaining continuity of essential public services. In cases of extreme emergency, the civil authorities can also use these reserves for internal and border security, including protecting public facilities under a French anti-terrorism program known as Vigipirate, in which French military personnel conduct armed anti-terrorism patrols in key transportation, government and tourist facilities.

The Citizens’ Reserve or Réserve Citoyenne has an entirely different role: to maintain the French concept of l’ésprit de defense, or the spirit of defense, perhaps in response to a France in which the ordinary citizen has lost interest in things military. Indeed, in 1998 France instituted a “day of introduction to military service” (journée d’appel de préparation à la defense). This reserve is intended to assist with recruiting, to maintain liaison with the public and reinforce emergency response mechanisms. However, its members are expressly excluded from military tasks and thus can carry out only civil assistance operations of a nonmilitary nature. In essence, they carry out representational efforts and, in any event, their numbers are very limited.

SOURCES- Armed Forces Journal, AP, Wikipedia