We don’t see their faces splashed across newspapers. They don’t drive around in sports cars like “celebrities” and major sports stars.
But they don’t aspire to any of those things anyway.
These are the people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to working in a service that has one fundamental objective: To serve the country by protecting the French nation.
These people are the members of the French Air Force. Young men and women who early in their lives made a very important and extraordinary decision: To live their lives in anonymity away from the spotlight of fame. When they made this decision, they chose to sacrifice everything in exchange for becoming a part of the military elite. Above all else, they chose to do their best to protect you, even if doing so is at the expense of their own lives.
They are the French Air Force, fighter pilots, engineers, ground arm technician, avionics mechanic, computer network specialist, administrative staff and CIS security, among others, who are working nonstop 24/7 with an incredible level of synchronization.
These highly trained, highly educated professionals exhibit extraordinary discipline and a remarkable level of respect for their superiors and colleagues. They work under pressure and pursue excellence in everything they touch and do. They share many common traits: Determination, discipline, respect for their culture and everything their ancestors have done for this country. Above all else, they love what they do. And contrary to many people think and believe, their primary focus is not to wage war, but to prevent it.
They are proud to be part of the military elite of the French Air Force; it is their family.
France has long been considered a global leader in terms of technologies, professional services, innovations, and defense. It is home to one of the strongest defense industries in the world and satisfies the majority of its military requirements without any external assistance. It competes with the US, the UK, Russia, and China on the development of advanced military hardware and continues to consolidate its position as a major defense exporter.
On Thursday July 19, 2018, I had the honor of visiting Air Force Base 113 « Antoine de Saint-Exupéry » of Saint-Dizier to meet Captain Jean-Guillaume Martinez.
Known affectionately to his friends and colleagues as “Marty,” Jean-Guillaume is a pilot in the Rafale transformation squadron of the Dassault Rafale aircraft and an ambassador of the Air Force. He has participated in many International Exercises and External Operations.
In 2016 and 2017, he worked as a display pilot for the Rafale Air Force, in which capacity he was responsible for demonstrating the maneuverability, agility, speed, and power of the Rafale combat aircraft produced by Dassault Aviation. He has since been allocated to the role of coach, and will be responsible for training the pilot selected to fly the Rafale combat aircraft during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
It was a sheer privilege to have an opportunity to meet with this highly accomplished and proficient pilot. He shared with us some of his experiences as a pilot, explained why he chose to serve his country, and offered some great insights into the fantastic Rafale combat aircraft.
A visit to the Air Base 113 of Saint-Dizier is a truly inspirational experience. The facility exudes an aura of trust, encouragement, and respect. It is a melting pot of different cultures and a place where people are not judged on their color, race, ethnicity, social status, or education, but on their work ethic and commitment to dedicating their lives to serving others as part of the military elite.
The people who call Air Base 113 home are externally focused and disciplined. They are trained and prepared to respond to the most diverse and complex situations. For them, the world is abundant with “enemies.” However, the most dangerous enemy to encounter in a military environment comes from within. It is your confidence and your ability to believe in yourself and trust in something. Confidence is the sky code to performing your best as a fighter pilot. In this high-pressure environment, which is replete with challenges and threats, if you do not believe in yourself, you cannot expect anyone else to.
On the journey to becoming members of this military elite, pilots make many very difficult decisions. The process they follow is measured, systematic, and deliberate: Preparation, briefing, realization of the mission, debriefing, and mission report. Each of these tasks is as important as the others and continues to foster these professionals’ ability to continually improve and remain on the right path to achieving excellence. The members of the Air Base 113 family are responsible for safeguarding the security of millions of people and they share one common goal: To assure peace.
In 2017, Dassault Aviation Company was awarded the illustrious title of “best employer in France.” As such, we can say without reservation that it employs the best of the best.
Wherever you venture in the airbase, you will find excellence. Take the cutting-edge Dassault Simulator for example. This advanced technology allows you to test virtually any scenario, from the simplest weapons to most sophisticated systems. All weapons are tested using the same flight conditions that are reproduced in minuscule detail to accurately represent a mission environment. The simulator’s cabin exactly represents that of the combat aircraft Rafale. The only difference between the two is that the simulator allows the teams involved to test scenarios without putting people or equipment at risk.
The government invests billions of dollars training pilots and developing and maintaining fighter jets. The Dassault Simulator provides a safe environment in which training exercises and maneuvers can be thoroughly tested before they are executed on the field. The simulator also allows pilots to collaborate with engineers so that they can continue to improve the system and remain at the cutting-edge of technology development. The electronic system, radar, and weapons are continually evolving.
Being a fighter pilot comes with enormous responsibility and flying the military’s most advanced fighter jets can have a profound impact on an individual’s emotions. If you are not disciplined and able to control your emotions, you will become their slave; they will ultimately destroy you.
It is only when we venture to the hangar and come face to face with the Rafale aircraft that we can truly start to grasp the power of this incredible machine and get a feeling of what it is like for the pilots and engineers to have the pleasure of working with one of the most incredible machines ever made.
The Rafale is the fruit of a long history that began in the early 1980s. At that time, France, Germany, England, Italy, and Spain shared a goal to build a European fighter plane. However, the military strategy of each of the European nations was very divergent. In 1985, the French government decided to build its own aircraft and the design for this was entrusted to Dassault Aviation. Following 20 years of study with the best French engineers, eight airplanes were replaced by just one: Supersonic Rafale. As a weapon, it is able to perform multiple functions: air-to-air missions (air policy, air superiority, escorts), air-to-ground missions, air interdiction (means to strike and reduce the capability of enemy) close air support, support ground troops in evolutions (search enemies, protect, support), reconnaissance (use cameras to detect, find, verify), air to surface (destroy surface ship), deterrence (Nuclear mission); it is an airplane that can switch from air mission to ground mission. Rafale is the most complete weapon system. It can perform all missions with a high degree of accuracy and an impressive performance. It offers fantastic fly by wire and an engine power of 2 M-88 – It is built around the pilot with an incredible ergonomics. In fact, the Rafale is an fighter jet easy to fly because the aim is to manage a war mission. You have to give orders to your wingmen and organize all the informations given by yours sensors, datalink and radio call. It is a full integrated system in a digital environnement to have the best situation awareness as possible to reach your goal: the success of the mission safely.
The weapon system is complete and incorporates incredible touch screens, like the HOTAS (Hand On Throttle And Stick). Really user-friendly, the maximum flying speed of the Rafale is Mach 1.8 or 750 knots. The aircraft are ready and waiting to leave the base at any time to assist another aircraft or intercept an unidentified plane. The Rafale is also easier to maintain than its counterparts; engineers can change the engine in just two hours!
The Rafale is available in three versions: The B and C versions are designed for the Air Force while the M version is for the navy.
When I asked Captain Jean-Guillaume Martinez about the source of his inspiration and motivation, he responded without a second’s hesitation: “I think about all test pilots and engineers who conceived and created the Rafale. They created a fantastic combat aircraft with our DNA. I’m extremely proud to be flying this plane.”
When asked what stimulated his interest in serving his country, Captain Jean-Guillaume Martinez was, again, quick to respond:
“From a very young age, I wanted to work on something that could be useful to my country. I chose to be a fighter pilot, a very selective and demanding job both physically and mentally. Most people give up too easily on themselves; in life, you will always experience ups and downs. Anybody can be positive and have a long-term vision when they have their health, the bills are paid, and they are in a happy relationship. The real challenge of personal growth, mental health, and emotional control comes when you get knocked down because it takes courage to act, start again, and be strong. Here at Air Base 113, we have act with principles; behind every principle, there is a promise that you make to yourself and fulfill at any cost.”
In life, you have to find what you love to do. That will help you to achieve the balance you need to succeed in both your work and personal life. You spend a lot of your life at work. The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. The only way to do a great job is to love what you do, even Steve Jobs said so.
To protect its national interests, territorial sovereignty, and interest of its people, every nation aspires for strength. The economic might of a country is an important parameter by which we can gauge its national strength. However, a thriving economic landscape is meaningless if the citizens of the nation are not able to enjoy peace.
The French military elite of the French Air Force is continually working in the background to make peace a reality. They are the real stars of France.
Ana Paula Araujo Mendes
Many thanks to:
First of all I would like to thank the Chef d’Etat-Major de L’Armée de L’Air M. Général André Lanata for authorizing this interview in the Air Base 113 of Saint-Dizier which has been a truly inspirational experience.
Captain Jean-Guillaume Martinez
Is a pilot in the Rafale transformation squadron and an ambassador of the French Air Force. He has participated in many International Exercises and External Operations.
Interview Photos Nadjim Ait-Meddour