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Young French People Are Flocking to Enlist in the Wake of Paris Attacks

President Hollande has said France is at war, and the number of people hoping to join the armed forces has tripled in the past week.

by VICE News
Nov 19 2015, 4:50pm

Via sengager.fr

The number of young French people hoping to enlist in the armed forces has tripled since the November 13 terror attacks that killed 129 people in the French capital, army officials have said.

Colonel Eric de Lapresle, head of marketing and communications for the army's recruitment arm, told French daily Le Monde that he was "floored" by the surge in applications.

According to de Lapresle, the army's recruitment website – sengager.fr, which translates as "enlisting" – is currently fielding an average 1,500 applications a day versus 500 a day before the attacks. France's Armed Forces Information and Recruitment Centers are also facing an influx of candidates, although exact figures have yet to be released.

On the "why enlist" page of its website, the army's recruitment service lists several arguments for joining the military, including the chance to "defend the French, France and its values" and to "experience a brotherhood of arms." The site offers recruitment option to candidates who have dropped out of high school, candidates with a degree, and those with up to five years of secondary education.

The rise in enlistments comes just three days after President François Hollande opened his extraordinary address to both houses of parliament with the statement, "France is at war."

In a speech that indeed had all the tones of a call to arms, the president compared Friday's tragic attacks to "acts of war."

"I know I can count on the devotion of police officers, gendarmes, soldiers and you, representatives of the nation," Hollande said in the televised speech. "You know the meaning of duty and, when the circumstances require it, the spirit of sacrifice."

Hollande also announced he would freeze planned military personnel cuts through 2019, and suggested using the country's reservists to form a home guard.

The government had already reviewed proposed defense cuts in the wake of the January 2015 attacks that left 17 people dead in and around Paris, when radical Islamic militants attacked satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.

According to Le Monde, the French army will have 15,000 new recruits by the end of 2015 – 5,000 more enlistments than in 2014. The estimated number of new recruits for 2016 is 16,000.

The 15,000 who join the army in 2015 will be recruited from a pool of 160,000 applicants, with only 60,000 candidates submitting to the various physical, medical and psychological evaluations and tests required to join. Still, the number of people considering a career in the military is significantly up from 2014, when 120,000 people filed their initial application.

This can partly be explained by the army boosting its recruitment efforts following the January attacks, and raising the number of annual recruitment drives from three to five. But according to de Lapresle, "Even when we stopped advertising, numbers did not go down or went down very little." In 2014, he told Le Monde, the army's website was fielding an average 130 requests a day through its website (up to 300 or 400 during an advertising campaign), with those numbers soaring to 500 in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks (up to 800 during an advertising campaign).

In the United States after September 11, 2001, the military exceeded its recruiting goals in the year following the attacks, and the army's financial statement for 2002 shows that 79,585 joined that year, versus 75,855 the previous year. Other factors, such as the country's weak economy at the time and the introduction of the GI bill that provides free college education for soldiers, are also believed to have boosted 2002 enlistment figures.

But while enlistments did rise in the wake of the attacks, the modest surge was short-lived, with "less than 1 percent of the nation deploying in Iraq or Afghanistan between 2001 and 2011," according to the New York Times.