Away from Conflicts
Reunion Island, 2012-2013
When he was young Benoit Cancelier dreamed of becoming a sniper. He joined the french marines in 1996 at the age of 17 and over the next fifteen years participated in thirteen overseas Operations: in the former Yugoslavia, Guyana, Ivory Coast, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Each mission is four to six months long. Over the years he spent very little time with his family and missed his daughter’s birth. "When I returned from Afghanistan, she did not know who I was", he said with an embarrassed smile. When he got back from his last mission, where he was the chief of the sniper section, his sleep became increasingly restless. He wanted to return to the front after a month, but his wife insisted that he stay home a little longer.
In 2011 Benoit took a break in his operational career and moved to Reunion Island with his family. "For marines it is a tradition to go overseas for two years, it is compulsory and something mythical", he says. The soldier, accustomed to living in conflict zones, is now in unknown territory, that of being reintegrated in civilian society. Removed from operational tension, he is chief instructor with volunteers of RSMA (Adapted Military Service Regiment). "I don’t train them as soldiers, I just teach them how to live with discipline, the discipline of a soldier and to be a part of civilian society." While Benoit himself did not get a degree before joining the army, he pushes his young people to excel. “They need help, they demand it; some are most eager to get out. Others are more hesitant, you must give them a taste for success first.” He does not hesitate to talk about his own experience in the field, if he thinks it is helpful. Benoit now returns home every night. The family must get used to the presence of a father and a husband who was so often absent before. "We share things, which brings us together." But every day seems mundane and boring to him: he misses his shooting club and the training with his comrades. He stays in touch on social networks with those who stayed in the field and he knows that his comeback is approaching fast.
At the end of his two-year mission on Reunion Island, Benoit and his family will return to France. He will then likely go to Mali or some other conflict area. He thinks he will easily readjust to his operational duties. He says: "In September I will be at my real job again!" Benoit will then do what he loves most: going on a mission, taking some risk, feeling the adrenalin again. But he will be away from his family.