The spirit of defence


Engagement officer General Christophe de Gouttes assists the commander of the Southwest defence and security zone in his functions. His is a role unique to this zone which covers the entire Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, of which he is also army commander.


How is the engagement officer involved in the teaching of defence and the transmission of the memory of contemporary conflicts to young people at zone level?

The role plays an essential part in the activities of the trinôme académique of Gironde. One of the main tasks of the trinômes (regional committees formed of the chief education officer, military commander and IHEDN representative) is to promote interaction between the educational and military communities, in order to develop the spirit of defence in young people. As the defence representative in the Bordeaux trinôme, I seek to cultivate the relationship between the military and the teaching profession, through information sharing, discussion and training.

The armed forces can provide resources for outreach activities with young people: education-defence events, presentations of defence careers and challenges, participation in national ceremonies, talks in schools and universities, themed “defence and citizenship” days and exhibitions, visits to military units, participation in armed forces-youth competitions, and nationwide activities as part of the “citizenship pathway” (Defence and Citizenship Day, sponsorship programme, National Reservist Day, etc.). My role is to mobilise those resources. A particular focus is the “civic challenges” (rallyes citoyens), which consist of sports and intellectual contests based on the values of citizenship, commitment and solidarity. These challenges are proving increasingly popular: this year, 1 630 girls and boys aged 15 to 17, from 88 lycées and 91 collèges across the Southwest zone, took part. Through its organisation, this activity creates partnerships, interaction and cohesion around a project, while increasing interactions between young people, teachers and the military.

Could you tell us about the civic challenge that took place at Camp de Souge in April?

The Souge civic challenge was the trailblazer for this activity within the Bordeaux education authority. Created ten years ago, it has gradually spread throughout the defence zone. The Camp de Souge, in the commune of Martignas-sur-Jalle, is home to the 13th Dragoons Parachute Regiment. It also has a strong remembrance dimension, being the site of the Mémorial des Fusillés de Souge (in honour of the 259 people killed by firing squad here during the Second World War).

The civic challenge is organised by the trinôme académique of Gironde. Due to its success, we now hold two separate challenges for lycée and collège students, and we have had to limit the number of participating schools. Fourteen lycées and 14 collèges from across the department take part, or just over 280 students. The challenges involve a variety of partners, including the armed forces, gendarmerie, police, national education service, IHEDN, civil security agency and national service authority. Also represented is the Gironde mayors association - a sign of the link with the civilian sphere - and the Association du Souvenir des Fusillés de Souge. In this way, the past is linked to the present to prepare for the future: the cycle is complete!

Why is it important for the military community to mobilise to transmit France's history and memory to the younger generation?

When we look at our history, it is easy to find reasons to be proud and circumstances in which the French people mobilised en masse for worthy causes. These are the weapons needed by our young fellow citizens to confront the future. It is also the challenge we are rising to, together with the national education service, in paying tribute to those who have enlisted to ensure the survival of our nation. The defence and security of our country depend not on walls, but on the will of our citizens.

Through the trinômes académiques and the role of the IHEDN facilitator, the military community has found its rightful place alongside the educational community. Today, the links between the armed forces and the nation, and the armed forces and young people, have been given concrete expression.

The editor

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