The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff received the French Legion of Honor from Philippe Etienne, France's ambassador to the United States, for his personal commitment to strengthening the French-American relationship.
Today's Pentagon ceremony recognized the work of Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva over the past four years to enhance the already strong defense relationship between France and the United States.
French and American service members serve side by side in the Sahel, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and as fellow charter members of NATO.
The relationship goes back to the birth of the United States, with the Marquis de Lafayette serving in the Continental Army, French Gen. Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau leading French troops at Yorktown, and French Adm. Francoise de Grasse, who won the Battle of the Chesapeake against the British in 1781, ensuring the victory of the United States in the American Revolution.
American forces fought in France during World War I and World War II. More recently, French forces supported American special operations personnel ambushed in Niger in 2017. A French aircraft carrier operated as the command for a U.S. Navy task group in the Persian Gulf in 2015. French and American airmen police the skies together in many areas of the world.
The Legion of Honor is France’s most prestigious medal, Etienne said. Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte founded the award in 1802.
''You have been instrumental in furthering cooperation between the United States and the French armed forces,'' the ambassador said. ''This is particularly true regarding your efforts in the enhancement of information sharing and the help you provided for access to munitions needed for the fight in the Sahel.''
Selva also furthered multilateral cooperation, and Etienne particularly highlighted his efforts to increase trilateral cooperation among France, the United Kingdom and the United States. His work, he said, ''ensures our countries will be able to innovate and fight together in the future, and that we will still be interoperable.''
Selva accepted the award on behalf of the many people who worked together in the U.S. and French militaries to enhance cooperation. The work he has done — particularly in the past four years — has been ''some of the most rewarding work of my career,'' Selva said.