French Chief of Defense Gen. Pierre de Villiers presented Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the Legion of Honor today for Dunford’s dedication to improving the military-to-military relationship between the two nations.
De Villiers presented the award to Dunford in the Ecole Militaire -- the French military's version of the War College. Napoleon Bonaparte established the award in 1802.
Close U.S.-French Relationship
Dunford said the United States has no closer ally than France and praised the close military cooperation with France.
“As we are standing here, our soldiers are together in West Africa, they are together in Libya, they are together in Syria, they are together in Afghanistan and we are operating together in the South Pacific,” the chairman said. “The sun doesn’t actually set on our relationship. Throughout the world there are French and Americans standing shoulder-to-shoulder doing the job.”
De Villiers spoke of the historic ties between the two nations, noting that tomorrow in Paris American troops will lead the annual Bastille Day parade down the Champs-Elysees to mark 100 years since their Doughboy predecessors arrived in France to fight in World War I.
“We are still together,” de Villiers said.
The French award recognizes Dunford for “the remarkable role he plays in the security of the world,” especially “against armed terrorist groups that shock us with their brutality,” de Villiers said.
Bastille Day Preparations
Earlier in the day, the chairman met with President Donald J. Trump at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, and they both met with French President Emmanuel Macron. Later they met with American service members who will participate in the Bastille Day parade and members of the U.S. Embassy staff. They also met with U.S. World War II veterans who fought in France -- former Army Tech. Sgt. Steven Melnikoff and former Army Pvt. Joe Reilly.
There are between 4,000 and 5,000 French service members in West Africa helping partners to build capabilities, provide stability to the region and to hunt down members of al-Qaida. The U.S. provides support to the French mission in the region, but France has the contacts in West Africa, officials traveling with the chairman said on background.
French is widely spoken in West Africa and French personnel are integral in developing intelligence in the area. They are also working with the United States to encourage regional nations to work together to combat the threats of armed groups.
U.S. forces provide airlift and refueling capabilities to French forces in the region.