It was 5 a.m. on June 14, 2019, at a French military base near Gao in Mali, when a crew of three soldiers boarded a Gazelle helicopter to fly over the desert. The two pilots, Kevin and Adrien, go to lend a hand to their brothers in arms engaged for several hours in an operation against terrorists. At the back of the device, the sniper Maxime Blasco, who died this Friday during a commando operation, settles down. This is the fourth time that he has been projected onto the Barkhane military deployment in Mali since he enlisted in 2012. What this 32-year-old alpine hunter does not yet know is that he is about to save the lives of his teammates.
In the calm night, the Gazelle approaches the wooded area where Operation Aconite is taking place. "Max" cocks his spectacle gun. But he did not have time to shoot, the helicopter came under enemy fire. The aircraft was hit and headed straight for the ground. “When we start to approach the ground, I put my legs in and I start to hang on to the captain's seat. By hugging me as tight as possible. By telling me that in any case it will be the guaranteed impact, ”he told a journalist from France 2 who questioned him a year later. The young man admits having felt "impotence": "I accepted, I said to myself
Anyway, it ends today
», He testifies the lower part of the face covered with a camel-colored mask which reveals his smiling gaze.
Later in the interview, he even quips: "This is the end of my short life".
Return to the desert.
The Gazelle is on the ground, Kevin and Adrien, the pilots, are seriously injured.
Maxime Blasco, who was ejected, a little less.
The soldiers must be taken out of the apparatus which can explode at any time.
“Pain invaded my body.
I did not feel ready to move but quickly seeing the flames, I understood that if I stayed there, it was over ”, smiles the young man who evokes“ a miracle ”.
"That's when I almost got the most fear"
Rather than move away to take shelter, "Max" comes back and grabs Adrien whom he drags for several tens of meters. At the same time, Kevin rolls in the dust for cover as the crew of a Tiger helicopter decides to pick up the wounded, who risk being shot by terrorists.
On the Tiger, Kevin, partly "secured" by a strap, takes his place against the cabin. But "Adrien and Max are holding on to the strength of their arms" on the landing gear, said the pilot of the Tiger, who took off again less than six minutes after the crash of the Gazelle. The action, confirm the soldiers, was never carried out, neither in training, nor in combat. “That's when I almost got scared the most. I thought to myself
we are doing something improbable
. It's an action movie scene! », Jokes a year later Maxime Blasco, while he is in training in Chambéry before a new departure for Mali.
"His action will allow the rescue and survival of the helicopter crew," writes the Defense in the young man's obituary.
Injured in his back, suffering from multiple vertebral fractures, the young soldier was repatriated to France on June 18, 2019.
If he was decorated with the Cross of Military Valor with Star of Vermeil and then with the Military Medal by the President of the Republic, Maxime Blasco did not consider himself a hero.
“I did an action like that (…) I don't really see a hero (…) I find the term a bit strong, he confides to France 2. It was a collective action.
"I had always sworn to myself that the day I had a mission accident, I would stop my work"
The imminence of death did not however scald the young man who wore a masked skull tattooed on his hand.
“I had always sworn to myself that the day I had a mission accident, I would stop my job.
And finally I see that in fact, this job is a passion.
It's a bit of a drug.
The spirit of camaraderie, action, adrenaline.
The feeling of being used for something.
It took over my accident ”
Almost 35 years old, Master Corporal Maxime Blasco of the 7th Battalion of Alpine Chasseurs de Varces (Isère), known for “his precision” and his “coolness”, was fatally shot on Friday by a sniper during a reconnaissance operation in the Gossi region, near the border between Mali and Burkina Faso.