The role of cavalry in French doctrine was that of reconnaissance and maintaining security of the flank and rear of the infantry. Infantry divisions in France each had a groupe de reconnaissance de division d’infanterie (GRDI) and terminology aside these were simply half of a cavalry regiment. In colonial formations the Spahis and their semi-mechanised counterparts, the Chasseurs d’Afrique, fulfilled the same function and would also find their selves divided in like manner.
Typically a groupe would consist of two cavalry squadrons, a two-gun section of Puteaux 37mm guns and a machine gun platoon. The support elements were carried by pack-horses, mules, or if it could be locally commandeered, trucks. If these were available they would be used to transport the machine gun platoon in the first instance, followed by the Puteauxs. Each Spahi squadron consisted of a small headquarters element and four platoons.
The Spahis trained in the use of the sabre and in the traditional cavalry role, but these were to be secondary to their operating as both scouts and light infantry. With this end in mind individual Spahis sections within the platoon were equipped with the same weapons as their infantry counterparts. The Spahis themselves were indigenous Moslem volunteers from North Africa, engaged on long-service contracts. Like the turcos of the infantry, their French officers and senior NCOs were career soldiers.