Cyrille Chahboune is no stranger to overcoming adversity. As a former member of France's elite 10th Air Commando Parachute Unit – one of the French military's most competitive and prestigious divisions, his life has required determination and skill in equal measures.
But his greatest challenge came after he joined and was deployed to Iraq in 2016 in the global effort against Daesh. By then, Daesh had become a byword for brutality, including slickly-produced propaganda videos depicting executions, enslavement, destruction of historical monuments, and their use of banned chemical weapons.
In 2014, Daesh fighters spilled over Iraq's borders. In just two weeks, the group controlled 70 percent of the key Anbar Province, including Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. With Iraq unable to halt Daesh's advance, the international community stepped in.
France and its coalition allies sought to help the Iraqi government by providing training and air support. It embedded special forces operatives within Iraqi and Kurdish units to provide real-time intelligence and advice. These were highly dangerous jobs, assigned only to the most capable and qualified.
Cyrille's unit was embedded within Iraqi’s Kurdish Peshmerga force on the front lines of Erbil province. Daesh was a dangerous foe, possessing vast quantities of modern military equipment left behind by the fleeing Iraqi military. But it also used unconventional military tactics, like suicide bombings and roadside IEDs.
On October 2, 2016, Daesh flew a drone laden with explosives into Cyrille’s position. The blast killed two Kurdish fighters. Cyrille and another French soldier were seriously wounded.
The explosion immediately ripped Cyrille’s left leg off, with the other also badly injured. Barely conscious from the blast, Cyrille courageously managed to tie his badly injured right leg with a tourniquet before being evacuated. Ultimately, the damage proved too grave, and doctors were forced to amputate his right leg.
Cyrille spent a year in the hospital. Recovery was a long and fraught process. Speaking to FranceInfo, he described the experience as "starting from zero." He had to re-learn how to walk and how to perform the activities of daily living that we all take for granted.
And more importantly, he had to re-discover his purpose. The military had been both his vocation and his home. Its absence left a gaping void, which he now needed to fill. But he was undeterred.
His military career over, Cyrille rededicated his life to becoming a top athlete, experimenting with several different sports to find his niche. "I tried a bit of everything. Golf, climbing, sailing, diving, skydiving," he told FranceInfo.
The essential attributes of a soldier — discipline, commitment, and focus — served him well. He excelled in the sports he entered, winning a joint-second place at Handiflyrace, the world's only indoor skydiving competition for people with disabilities, and a gold medal for sailing at the 2018 Invictus games in Sydney, Australia.
Competitive sport gave Cyrille renewed purpose. And the same audacity that led him to join the French special forces has now been channeled to achieving greatness on the playing field. His ultimate goals are now to participate in volleyball and shooting competitions in the 2024 Paralympic Games in his home country in Paris, France and then again in 2028 in Los Angeles.
Cyrille is determined to make it to the 2024 Paralympic Games. But determination alone isn’t enough. To be competitive on a global level, athletes need resources: Trainers. Equipment. Practice time. The funds to single-mindedly dedicate one’s life to a seemingly-impossible goal.
As the 2024 Paris Summer Paralympics loom, Cyrille has launched a crowdfunding campaign. His goal of €24,000 will allow him to pay for the equipment, training, and travel costs associated with competing.
Dedrone, the leading provider of counter-drone technology, is pleased to support Cyrille in his Paralympic ambition and will match donations through 15 November 2022, up to an amount of €5,000, resulting in a potential donation totaling €10,000.
"What Cyrille experienced shouldn't happen to anyone ever again. Dedrone's entire raison d'être, is to protect people, property, and information from the threat of drones. We can protect our soldiers on the battlefield just as well as we protect facilities at home and abroad," said Alex De Los Santos, a Sales Engineer at Dedrone. Alex was on the ground as a contractor in Iraq when Cyrille’s unit was attacked. When he told this story to the Dedrone team, former Commando Parachute Group member Pierre-Etienne Villand, now also part of our team, recognized the soldier and connected us to Cyrille.
"Cyrille’s story of recovery and determination inspires everyone who hears it. We're honored to support him in his goals," he added.
To support Cyrille and learn more about him, visit his funding page here.
October 6, 2022
April 25, 2023
About the author
Mary-Lou Smulders is the Chief Marketing Officer at Dedrone, where she leads Dedrone's global marketing and communications team.