Commando Hubert elite of French Special Forces in action in Burkina Faso

The Hubert commando is one of the seven commandos of the French Navy, considered as the most prestigious of them and as the most selective and complete unit of special forces of the whole French Army. Made up of combat swimmers, the Hubert commando specializes in underwater action and in maritime counter-terrorism actions. Two of them were killed in the night of 9 to 10 May while releasing hostages in Burkina Faso.

Commando Hubert elite of French Special Forces in action in Burkina Faso 925 001
French Special Forces during a live demonstration in France.  (Picture source Army Recognition)

The insignia of the unit is adorned with a naval anchor, a dagger and an eagle, traditional symbols of the commandos. It recalls the perfectly versatile dimension of the Hubert commando whose operators are specialists in three environments (land, air and sea), being both combat swimmers and paratroopers, experts in HALO-HAHO jumps (Hi-Altitude jumping, Hi-altitude parachute Opening - Hi-Altitude Low-Opening).

Direct heir of the 1st Bataillon de Fusiliers marins commandos that was formed during World War 2 in UK, it is named after Lieutenant Augustin Hubert, killed in action June 6, 1944 in Ouistreham, and who is buried in the British military cemetery of Hermanville-sur-Mer. Created in December 1947, it becomes, in 1953, a unit of combat swimmers and takes the name of CASM (submarine action commando) Hubert. It is the only unit of combat swimmers in the French Army and also trains swimmers for other military units or state services, such as candidates for the DGSE's Action Service (secret service). The Commando Hubert has the reputation of being the best unit among the French special forces, with the 1st Régiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine (1 RPIMa, Navy Airborne Regiment). This elite unit is the counterpart of the US SEAL Team 6.

With 100 men, all combat swimmers and HAHO-HALO qualified paratroopers, the Hubert commando is articulated in 2 companies.

The 1st company is composed of about fifty combat swimmers and HAHO-HALO qualified paratroopers; it is divided into four sections (or squads):

* Section A, Command and Control Cell, deals with the operational support of the company and aligns the crews of semi-rigid craft (about 15 members);
* Section B is responsible for maritime counter-terrorism. Squad having an ability to operate underwater, it works closely with the GIGN (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale);
* Section C consists of crews of PSM (submarine propulsors). Its mission is to bring the teams of swimmers in front of the objective from a surface vessel or a submarine;
* Section D is responsible for recognition and support. Its mission is underwater channel and beach reconnaissance.

The 2nd company serves as a support unit and works as a rear base. Comprised of thirty people, most of them are not qualified combat swimmers.
Belonging to this Commando, master sergeants Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello ("maîtres" in the French navy ranking system), were killed in the operation carried out in the night of 9 to 10 May in northern Burkina Faso, not far from the Mali border, during an audacious operation aiming at releasing hostages. The operation, first involving Saber resources (Special Forces in the Sahel), was conducted with the direct assistance of French Operation Barkhane, Burkinabé armed forces, and US intelligence support, the French Chief of Staff, General François Lecointre, said. Four hostages were freed from their terrorist captors (two groups are active in the sector: the Islamic State of the Great Sahara and Ansar ul Islam, linked to Al Qaeda): the two Frenchmen kidnapped on May 1 in northern Benin, as well as an American and a South Korean nationals whose presence was a surprise. The action took place in a camp and four kidnappers were "neutralized", but two French commandos were killed during the intervention.