|Parachute Intervention Squadron of the National Gendarmerie|
|Escadron Parachutiste d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (French)|
|Active||1984 – 2007|
|Type||Police tactical unit|
The Parachute Intervention Squadron of the National Gendarmerie (French: Escadron Parachutiste d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) (EPIGN) was the parachute-trained intervention squadron of the French Gendarmerie. The unit was formed in 1984 with personnel from EPGM, a one-of-a-kind parachute squadron that had been created within the mobile gendarmerie in 1971 and was disestablished at that date. EPIGN, which was based in Versailles-Satory with its sister unit GIGN. Besides its primary mission of providing heavy support and reinforcement to GIGN, EPIGN soon developed its own set of missions in the fields of protection and observation. It was finally absorbed, together with the "old" GIGN, into the newly reorganized GIGN in September 2007.
In 1971, the French Gendarmerie established a new mobile gendarmerie squadron in Mont-de-Marsan in southwest France: Escadron 9/11 parachutiste de la Gendarmerie mobile (EPGM). The squadron had a dual mission as a law and order and a parachute unit. One of the new unit's missions was to provide parachute-qualified provosts to the army's 11th airborne division. The unit was also specialized in "hard" law and order missions.
In 1973 in the wake of the Munich massacre, the Gendarmerie created two tactical teams or "intervention units": one named ECRI (Équipe Commando Régionale d'intervention or Regional Commando Tactical Team) was based in Maisons-Alfort near Paris and a second, named GIGN (Groupe d'intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale) was created within the parachute squadron in Mont-de-Marsan. In 1974, the two units were renamed respectively GIGN 1 and GIGN 4. Then in 1976, both units merged into a single one, named GIGN and based in Maisons-Alfort. GIGN moved to Satory near Versailles (west of Paris) in 1982.
EPGM was involved in maintaining order during some of the most violent demonstrations of the 1980s which included protests against the building of new-generation nuclear plants. It was also deployed overseas to such places as Chad, the Central African Republic and Lebanon. The unit was also deployed to the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas to provide security for the 1977 referendum that led to the independence of Djibouti.
Besides being a qualified gendarme and paratrooper, every member of the unit had to have an additional specialty: high altitude jumper, sharpshooter, explosive neutralization specialist, close combat specialist, combat medic, loadmaster, driver, etc., the unit's structure remaining however that of a regular mobile gendarmerie squadron (i.e. one headquarters platoon and three line platoons) under the command of a captain. Being based near the Atlantic coast, the unit trained combat divers and this specialty was then acquired by GIGN4. This know-how was transferred to GIGN and further developed when the two units merged.
In 1984, it was decided that EPGM (the gendarmerie mobile parachute squadron) would be disestablished and that its personnel would be transferred to Satory to create a new kind of parachute squadron there. The new unit, named escadron parachutiste d'intervention de la gendarmerie nationale or EPIGN would provide tactical support and reinforcements for GIGN whenever additional personnel or heavy weapons were needed.
As time passed, EPIGN, without ever giving up its primary mission of providing tactical support and reinforcements for GIGN, developed its own set of missions: surveillance and observation of criminals and terrorists, personal protection of VIPs and officials and protection of critical sites such as embassies in war-torn countries.
The unit structure also evolved as the mission scope evolved and very soon, had nothing left in common with that of a regular mobile gendarmerie squadron. In the end the unit, still under the command of a captain, was composed of:
Despite the squadron's name, the "intervention" mission was entirely transferred to GIGN, members of the parachute squadron being assigned the task to support the intervention group by sanitizing and cordoning off their operating area and by providing heavy weapon support with machine guns and mortars if and when necessary.
An additional mission was to reinforce GSPR (French: Groupe de Sécurité de la Présidence de la République), the presidential security group (then composed exclusively of gendarmes), mainly during official or state visits abroad.
Squadron personnel frequently conducted security audits of embassies, ports and airports and various French or foreign sites.
Finally the squadron was also involved during special events such as the Pope's visit, the World Football or Rugby World Cups, the D-Day commemoration, etc.
EPIGN personnel (and now GIGN personnel) was trained in:
In 2007, the Gendarmerie, in light of mass terrorists events such as the Moscow theater hostage crisis and the Beslan school siege and in order to better integrate its tactical teams under reinforced headquarters, decided to disestablish GSIGN in favor of a "new" GIGN composed of the former GIGN, the former EPIGN and other former components of GSIGN (the Presidential close protection group and the training group). So EPIGN was disestablished and its former members became part of "forces" in the new GIGN (mainly the Security Protection Force and the Observation and Research Force).