EPIGN Escadron Parachutiste d'Intervention de la Gendarmarie Nationale
France's Gendarmarie Nationale contains a number of specialized and elite sub units. The most famous of these units is the GIGN Counter Terrorist (CT) unit. Another of these units, although less well known, is the Gendarmarie's EPIGN (Escadron Parachutiste d'Intervention de la Gendarmarie Nationale). Little known outside of France this highly skilled special operations and counter terrorist unit routinely operates alongside its more well known counter part.
Originally raised in 1971 as EPGM (Escadron Parachutiste de Gendarmerie Mobile), the initial members were drawn from Mobile Gendarmie units though out France. The squadron underwent several name changes over the years, before settling with its current designation.
EPIGN Gendarmes have participated in a number of French military interventions over the years. Teams have operated in support of the international peace-keeping forces deployed to the war torn city of Beirut. They have supported French military units operating against Libyan backed opposition forces in Chad. Teams have deployed to many of France's former African colonies, to help quell disturbances and provide protection details to VIPs. EPIGN teams have been extremely active in Basque territory operating against heavily armed ETA terrorists. EPIGN platoons now operate on a rotational basis though out the Basque country side.
The French territory of New Caledonia has experienced various periods of unrest over the years. During one such period of unrest a Gendarmarie station was attacked, and a number of hostages were held. the French government soon dispatched a number of special operations units to deal with the crisis. Amongst them was an EPIGN platoon, which operated under the control of GIGN. As a result of this operation and other terrorist acts an EPIGN platoon is now permanently stationed in the territory.
In 1994 EPIGN participated in the Rescue of hostages from Air France flight. Members of an Algerian terrorist group boarded the flight and highjacked the aircraft. GIGN and EPIGN along with other French Special Operations assets were immediately placed on an alert status. Once the aircraft landed in France, the GIGN and EPIGN teams were prepared to storm the aircraft if necessary. French intelligence received word that the terrorist planned to use the aircraft as a gigantic bomb, by exploding the plane while in flight over Paris. The decision was made not to let the aircraft lift off and the attack order was transmitted. GIGN assault teams stormed the aircraft while EPIGN teams provided support and secured the area around the aircraft. Once the aircraft had been secured EPIGN Gendarmes helped evacuate hostages and wounded personnel.
Currently EPIGN is composed of approximately 135 men and commanded by a Captain. Divided into four 30-35 man platoons and a small HALO Detachments. One of the platoons specializes in VIP protection and operates along side of the Groupe de Securite du President de la Republique (GSPR- the French Secret Service).