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French Military Enrollment Triples After Paris Terror Attacks

The number of young French people hoping to join the military has tripled in the wake of the country's terror attacks, according to official figures.
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The number of young French people hoping to join the military has tripled in the wake of the country’s terror attacks, according to official figures.

Recruiters are dealing with an average 1,500 applications a day compared to 500 a day before the Nov. 13 massacre in Paris that killed 130 people, Reuters reported.

Visits to air force recruitment offices have also tripled and requests for information are 20 times higher, according to figures on the military's website.

The number of applications to join the French navy doubled during 2015 compared to last year, it said.

France remains on maximum alert since last month’s massacre, with President Francois Hollande declaring a state of emergency and deploying over 1,500 additional troops onto the streets.

In addition to the November atrocity, the country has been dealing with the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shooting and related attacks in January, which left 17 people dead.

Applications to join the country’s land forces have already topped 170,000 in 2015 - a 41 percent rise on the 120,000 recorded in 2014 – the figures showed.

By comparison, the uptick in U.S. military recruitment in the wake of 9/11 was relatively modest. By 2005, when the U.S. was embroiled in the worst of the civil war in Iraq, the Army missed its recruiting goal by nearly 7,000 soldiers, according to the New York Times.

“This reaction makes me happy as a French soldier, to see that French youngsters are wishing to serve their country and their fellow citizens, by helping to establish peace when their country is in need,” said Colonel Bruno Bert, head of military recruitment for the Paris region.

Image: French soldiers patrol the Paris business district, La Defense.
French soldiers patrol the Paris business district, La Defense.KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP - Getty Images

"I think it is a reaction from young French people who felt threatened, who felt that they were being attacked because of the attacks on Nov. 13. It is a reaction which in some ways is totally natural, it is the reaction when one is faced with a threat.”

Alice Van Praet, who visited a recruitment center in the eastern Paris suburb of Vincennes, said that the attacks had only served to reinforce her desire to participate in army efforts.

"I applied (for the army) before the attacks in Paris on the internet, I have to say that the events only reinforced my wish to apply. I would like to promote French values through the army.

“I think that all missions which help in the safeguarding of French citizens are very important, the army just as much as police and security services. Therefore, the army is a great way of investing in something as a citizen," she said.

One of the soldiers evaluating the candidates undergoing their fitness tests, Sergeant Jean Jacques, emphasised the importance of being physically in shape to succeed in combat zones.

"The importance of the fitness evaluation is like being sent to a war zone, we are preparing soldiers to be sent into combat, to know how to run, to know how to hold a weapon, to shoot, to jump and climb up and down.

"All the exercises are meant to draw a parallel with a war zone. If you have to jump the candidate has to be ready to do so, the importance of being in good condition physically in a professional army is very very important," he said.