Military courses

Joseph Cosgrove

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#1
Well I’ve been asked to tell about some of the courses I’ve done during my legion time. I’ll do it every now and again so as not to make things boring. I mean I could make a list and post that, but it wouldn’t really tell anyone what the course involves. I won’t put them in order as I’ll probably come across a couple that I’ve done in between time. So I’ll start with the juiciest.

Fast forward my career to 1991. I was sent to the !3 DBLE in 1990 to work as a life guard in Gabode, (name of the barracks) Djibouti. I’d already done my lifesaver’s course (to be recounted in another post) in the REP. Main occupation watching people swim and giving swimming lessons to non-swimmers. The Non-swimmers were mainly corporal chefs who were not interested in learning and I was a corporal who just prayed that someone with rank wouldn’t come and check the progress.
Two times a week I’d have the children of the legion families for lessons. They were keen and made a lot of progress. But then again their mum’s were watching them and threatening them that they’d tell their dad.

After a year I was sent down to the CECAP (commando training center) because they needed a BNSSA (lifeguard) and a medic, another course I’d done in 3 REI in ‘87. There everyone mucks in whether it’s on the obstacle courses or refueling the reservoirs.
Because the commando training center was on the beach –Arta Plage, plage meaning beach- there was a lot of nautical activity. This meant zodiacs for training with and security when the trainees are going over the water obstacle course. So there is at least ten 6 man zodiacs and 4 10 man Zodiacs.

For any repairs they would have to be sent to Djibouti (Name of the country but also the capital). The Marine Nationale – French navy- had a repair ship which would follow the fleet which was based in Djibouti. The zodiacs were sent to this ship and we’d get them back a couple of weeks later.
Someone then had a great idea to send a couple of the ‘aide monitors’ as we were known, to learn how to do the repairs. Myself, Mick Purcell and S/C (I forget the name, but he was English) were sent on the course. The latter only joined the course to get another course under his belt, I never saw him once with a pot of glue.
So the 3 anglophones turn up at the docks to spend 5 days with the French Navy learning how to repair zodiacs. We’d go there in the mornings and go to the legion barracks in the late afternoon. At first they were a bit wary having 3 legionnaires from the CECAP, all English speakers to spend five days with them. That was quickly overcome.
Not only did they show us things that were considered to be our level but also things that were of a more complex level that would require the other Navy boats to send their zodiacs over to be repaired by them. I mean learning to put on a patch, is much like putting on a patch on a bicycle inner tube.
We learnt how to change the valves and replace the cones etc. and each day we’d get half an hour tying different knots.

So that is one course I did. You may be asking what is ‘juicy’ about that? Well when I returned to the REP after my 2 years I was a corporal chef and affected to the CCS, support and logistics company. I was to be a garde punis, or prison warden.
After a year of watching prisoners pulling weeds and sweeping roads I was attached to the 3rd company to go to Djibouti for 4 months. I was to run the foyer, which is not such a great job. Selling chocolate bars and beer.
However one day the CDU- the captain, told me to close the foyer and take him to one of the Djiboutian regular army camps. On the way he asked me what I’d done during my two years there in the 13. I told him and straight away he grabbed onto my zodiac repair course with the French navy. Now for those who don’t know, the 3 CIE of the REP is the amphibious company which at the time had somewhere in the region of 60 floaters. I say floaters because zodiac is a trade name and there are others.

So no more prisoners for me. Now if anyone has had the patience to read this far… the company has been sent on a four month mission to Central African Republic. To cut out all the details, one of the two teams of CRAP (nowadays GCP) 13 Regimet de Dragon Parachutistes needed two motorists to take them along the Kadei river. They were in a building separated from the rest of the camp. We came across them a couple of years later in Mostar, ex-yougoslavia. Myself, being a zodiac repairman and an outboard motor mechanic, Graczek, were picked.

Their team consisted of 2 sergeant chefs and 2 corporal chefs. They had received orders to seek a mercenary training camp along the river and to give the coordinates. We were armed with a FAMAS each and a side pistol, for Graczek and I it was the 9mm browning. Plus there was a case of defensive grenades and two 66 rocket launchers.
We spent a week looking for the camp. Graczek and I would be waiting by the zodiacs while the CRAP team would go off into the jungle.

Not really a claim to fame as we were all pulled out as there was fresh info about the location far from where we were. But in order to be able to relate the story I had to have done a zodiac repair course.

On a foot note, I didn’t want to mention this story, although I have already spoken about it in another post, when the soldier from the 13 RDP was killed not so long ago. It would have looked as if I was trying to make myself interesting.
 

Crotalus Atrox

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#2
And how often do you think they let the air out of those boats?? Ahh, almost never??...

Funny how we still use the name brand 'Zodiac' to describe a RIB, or Rigged Inflatable Boat. The French invented that too... To the victor go the spoils... err, something like that. Other examples: I'll just get the Bobcat to load out that material, when I really mean; I will use the skid steer to move that dirt. Hunny, have you seen the Hoover? Have you seen the vacuum? Scotch tape, Wizzy, on and on...

Hypalon or PVC? That is the question. It seems the transom is always the first thing to go on a RIB. But when the glues give out (and they seem to be making them more and more cheaply) most of the 'yachty' set just toss them in the bin and run out to buy a new one. Personally, I like the ones with the hard fiberglass bottom. They are longer lasting and have a much higher speed rating. There is a company from New Zealand making RIBs with aluminum hard bottoms. I feel the glass bottoms are better for a number of reasons. 1) They slide over rocks/sand better. 2) They are more easily fixed... Aluminum has to be ULTRA clean to get a non-porous, zero void, weld (thus stronger/ more durable). Plus, you have to have the machine, the rod, a high power source converted by the machine to high amp AC, clean mix of gas (argon and CO2), and all the PPE, and the grinder discs, grinder, cut saw, etc, etc... (AL burns bright! I run 12-13 on my 3M Speedglass)...
GRP aka fiberglass: An organic VOC respirator, a chip brush, and 4 pair of disposable gloves on your mits. Good temps and dry weather are a plus. Any monkey (like me for example) can do fiberglass cheaply... Tho, technically, the glass isn't waterproof till 'waxed' gelcoat is put on top. On commercial grade boats there is a minimum standard of 9mil thickness to the gelcoat (That's three passes from a special gun). The wax additive is super carcinogenic, very expensive, and hard to find; but who cares? This is a Legion Forum... Red and green are my favorite colors.

I still remember my first ride on a RIB; I was 12 years old. A Canadian kid was showing off for me... Lopez or Orcas island in the San Juans... Maybe Friday Harbor?? Lost my favorite hat over it, hahaha! They had a 25 horse Merc on the back; way over-powered for the class (size and weight) of boat. I had to sit way out on the bow to keep the nose of the boat down and keep it from porposing. We were both laughing pretty hard after that; tears streaming out, from the wind... Good times! Changed my life forever....

The evolution of that type of boat should be a tunnel hull, ram air, inflatable. I've seen a few out there, but basically, it hasn't caught on yet... Give me a Million, I'll make you 20... But first the patent rights.

Awesome Joe! Très cool!... I think dry suits and wet suits use similar glues, glue methods and techniques. How could you not want to learn all about that? It's all interconnected and builds you into the best Amphib warrior you can be. All you GCP, CRAPs, DINOPs, 2em REP 3em Co. amphib wannabes, take note!

What about your Medics course??? What about your mechanics course for outboard engines?? Don't be bashful now. I'm in, Im listening... Paras are cool!
 
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Joseph Cosgrove

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#3
OK asked to start a post on Legion (and other army's) courses. To keep the thread alive for anyone interested, I'll give you the choice between lifeguard and boat operators Choice. I'd go for boat operator, but then I have fond memories.
 
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Joseph Cosgrove

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#9
Boat operator’s course, FFL style.
Well my first boat operator’s course took place in 3REI, it was actually a pirogue operator’s course. Our CDU (commandant d’unité –captain) Martin, decided that the company should be fitted out with their own pirogues and have its own pilots. This rather than using the regiment’s with their army issue Yamaha 30 Hp engines. These were piloted by locals who knew the jungle and how to live in it.

Some may wonder how the captain is going to come up with the funds to buy 11 brand new pirogues with brand new Suzuki 40 Hp engines. Easy, the company's club benefits. Each company has a club which sells soft drinks, snacks, meals and of course beer. I wasn’t privy to whether the BOI (operations and instruction office) contributed to it but it wouldn’t surprise me. Let’s be honest the regiment is suddenly kitted out with new means of getting around the waterways fast.
In case you are wondering why 11 and not 10 or 12, it’s because the 11th one was the ‘flag ship’. It was smaller than the others so more manageable and faster because it would carry less people/weight.

As is Legion tradition, we started off the course with an 8k TAP. This bit of torture is a legion favorite. Whether it’s running around the DZ in Calvi or doing a medic’s course in Guyane, or the commando course in Djibouti, there is no getting away with it. So why should the boat operator’s course be any different? Some of you may say that surely with the heat and the humidity of the jungle running with a backpack, a helmet and a rifle for 8 km (5 miles) the time allocated should be more than 1 hour. Nope !

Once that was over, we were told not to bother getting changed, but to have a light snack. Then we had our first lesson of the day, learning how to put on the two types of Mae West’s that we had. Not really complicated but the idea is to spot someone who has not put it on correctly. Once you are in front of the motor, or the motor is behind you, if you wish, you are the captain of that boat and all the people and supplies are in your charge.

Next thing was to swim with the Mae West for 500 m up river, turn around and swim back. Although it was without equipment and weapons, we had been running for 50 or 55 minutes, anyway less than an hour. The instructing Sgt asked if we wanted to do the swimming test or install our bivouac for the night. Oh, I forgot to mention that we would spend the whole 10 days in the jungle.
Although we did get the Sunday afternoon off to do our kit and catch up on sleep. Luckily no-one was dumb enough to put up their hand to the bivouac installation option.

The next day we took the captain’s flag ship and it’s motor over the jungle obstacle course. Some of you may have seen the cellule foret aide instructor’s course on you tube. Well before the cellule foret moved to Regina, it was located not far from the quartier Forget (camp Forget- ironic).
Here is a head’s up to Legion way of thinking. What is the point of taking a pirogue and a 40 Hp outboard motor over and under a bunch of obstacles in the jungle? Because there will be obstacles that you have to cross in the Amazon river? Yes, but that was for another lesson. The idea is that there are three combat section’s in the company plus a logistics group. There was also a Sgt and a Cpl from the 2nd company plus a corporal from 2 REI which was on compagnie tournante (short-term deployment) at the time. The Sgt and Cpl from the 2nd Cie made sense. I mean if the 3rd Cie had their own ‘Navy- including flag pirogue’ it wouldn’t be long before the 2nd company had its own fleet. The guy from 2 REI, would mean he gets another qualification under his belt. Total around 16 people.

So with all these people from different sections the idea is to mold them into a team. It’s not an individual course where everyone is competing to come first. The head instructor announced from the beginning that there would be no placing i.e. 1st,2nd and so on. Everyone would take turns at being on guard except the Sgt from the 2 Cie. He was there more as an observer and did later run the 2nd Cie’s course.

So that is another course that I’ve got notched up on my score sheet. Not really much use for it when I turned up in Calvi. As soon as I got there my old SOA from 3 REI went to see the captain of the company CEA and got me posted to his section Milan 2 after the promo. In those days, the wall hadn’t yet come down and the biggest threat was from the might soviet tanks. Did my MILAN course followed by a MILAN group leader’s course. I could have kicked the chef for getting me in that section, I believe it’s been replaced with some other anti-tank missile- good riddance.

Managed to stick it out for a couple of years until an opening for a qualified BNSSA came up. Now this was a new qualification and replaced the old Surveillance Baignade, life guard course. The later I had done in 3eme Reich (3REI) and the former in the REP. So always ready to volunteer for a course or a posting, I went to see Chef who is now an adjudant and chef de section.

I was in the swimming pool for a year when they needed a BNSSA and medic down in the CECAP. The lieutenant in charge came to see me in the swimming pool and asked if I wanted to go down to the CECAP. It has to be said that watching children swim and legionnaires on the weekend swim is alright for a while, in this case a year.
When I get down there one of my jobs was giving the water obstacle demo, whilst the Lt gave the commentary and then do the security. Another of my jobs was teaching the recruits how ta assemble zodiacs and how to overturn them in case attacked by a plane. And then how to upright them. Obviously there is no motor and all is done by paddles. The idea being that if you are going on a commando raid or have abandoned ship and find yourself in a floater.

So back to the REP and I’ve got very little left to learn about a zodiac, how to strip it down, how to repair it and how to pilot it. I get effected to the CCS as a prison warden. The rest you know.
I’m now in the fighting 3rd repairing zodiacs and taking my boat licenses on as an individual. Not sure how this is called in English candidate libre in French. Which means studying on my own. I do my first which is the basic one, which you need to have for a jet ski etc. Then the more advanced one which allows you to go 5 nautical miles from a sheltered harbor and to pilot at night. Then the Holy Grail of boat licenses – High seas. This is calculating distances and speed and wind etc. and tide tables. There was an adjudant with me from the 3rd Cie who took it and he arranged that way took it down at the centre Amphibie. A representative from the ‘capitainerie de Calvi’ came down with the questions. Two questions, 2 hours to give the exact position you will be at and what time can you enter the port. The Sea Chart was St Malo as there is no tide in the Med sea.

I am then picked to be a cadre on the boat Operators course for the 3 Cie REP. I remember how we suffered on my course in the jungle and here is this bunch of REP men doing it on the beach at Calvi! Actually it was very physical, but there was a lot more interesting things to be done. We would be lifted by helicopter and dropped into the sea at night and have to swim ashore, put the zodiac together and then paddle for 2 Ks out to sea then start the motors. It was rare that anyone had any sleep before 2 in the morning on the first week.

The BO course was running parallel with the nager de combat’s course. They would learn to swim, snorkel and scuba dive. We would drop them off during the night and pick them up the next day. The waves and wind can get pretty choppy out at sea. If you take a wave coming at you too slowly it might flip you,it will certainly soak you, so you have to go full throttle until you get to the crest and then cut back. No big deal if you don’t , just a bumpy landing and a clout round the ear from someone who did his BO course in 3REI. But if there is a head on wind then you will be flipped into the air and the zodiac will probably land on you.

There is a time I’ll never forget. I’m out in the sea with those that are designated to pick up the para’s doing their sea jumps. Each zodiac is designated a para to pick up as he comes out the door. My BO has to pick up the 7th guy out the door. He is so concentrated on his para that he he starts motoring in his direction. At the last minute I grab the bar and only just avoid the zodiac running over a para that is already in the water. It’s not the zodiac the biggest problem it’s the propeller running at full throttle.
 
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#10
Wow! Way more than I expected, hehehe... I'm going to have to read that again.

Am I allowed to ask silly questions? (Never stopped me before)...

I've never run a pirogue. I can see that they are aluminum and very narrow (which makes them fast I assume). Are they 20-25 feet? How many guys? What is the speed rating (30 vs. 40 horse, I know)? Do they have floatation incase of capsizing? What do they weigh?

If you are tired and have to haul a boat that size through the steaming hot jungle, that sounds very tough. The carrot at the end of that day better be good. Are the natives that you must intercept (drug runners and gold prospectors) running the same boats?

Not bad being Sauvetage (Lifeguard) in 50 C weather in Jibouti, I guess. That's a lot of sun block. How were the sharks?? Just nibbling nurse sharks? Hahaha...
 

Joseph Cosgrove

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#11
Wow! Way more than I expected, hehehe... I'm going to have to read that again.

Am I allowed to ask silly questions? (Never stopped me before)...

I've never run a pirogue. I can see that they are aluminum and very narrow (which makes them fast I assume). Are they 20-25 feet? How many guys? What is the speed rating (30 vs. 40 horse, I know)? Do they have floatation incase of capsizing? What do they weigh?

If you are tired and have to haul a boat that size through the steaming hot jungle, that sounds very tough. The carrot at the end of that day better be good. Are the natives that you must intercept (drug runners and gold prospectors) running the same boats?

Not bad being Sauvetage (Lifeguard) in 50 C weather in Jibouti, I guess. That's a lot of sun block. How were the sharks?? Just nibbling nurse sharks? Hahaha...
The pirogues used by the military are all made from trees. The people who fabricate them cut down the longest thickest trees and then start to chip it out until it makes the hull. They then burn it with coals until it becomes solid. After that the put in curved branches to support the planks which make up the sides. Between the planks and the hull they use tar to water proof it all, before taring the whole of the outside and then painting them.

The length depends on the the tree, but in general they can seat 8/10 people with their gear. The speed is not very fast and it depends on how well it is made (streamlined) and how much weight it is carrying.

View attachment 5964

As for the life guard, it was mainly in the swimming pool in the regiment.
 
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#12
Ahhh, I see now, thank you... Well, wood really is still the best material for a boat. Wood will always float. It is cheap and it is renewable. Tried and true for thousands of years. It seems ingenious natives everywhere have been using a similar method of construction. A tribe I know of, through trial and error, learned to modify their canoes to travel better through the water hundreds of years before the Europeans. Basically they carve a bulbous bow but in a more triangular, hydrodynamic shape. I won't go into it... hehehe.

Man! That is a hog of a Merc that the blue water taxi has on the back. Maybe a 50 horse? In the Mercury brand, if the plastic covers are black, the motor is made to operate in fresh waters. If the plastics are white, the motor was made to operate in salt or tepid (mix of salt and fresh; as in the outlet of a river into the ocean) waters. Cool pic!

I think the Legion has much faster boats than these long cumbersome things.

It would be nice to hear about the favorite courses of some of the other 'greens'. Is it possible???
 
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#14
Cie quoi ca? Esti! SVP, ne pas comme ca... jal-op-in-os. (J'em ca le trqiler pqrk boys... Damn frenchi keyboard!)

Mon grand-père avez le malaria. Tois année en the isle de Pacific (et Australie aussi) au course de guerre mondiale. Ile affecter por duex année, donc, pas beaucoup de travail por Elle. Cie un virus. Cie ton corps k besoin le temps a fabriquer le clie a te aide. Ne pas le medicine...

Damn! It's been a long time. Poor immitation Quebecer french, hahaha...

Favorite courses ??? Anyone... SVP....
 
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#15
Hey Joseph, I think you mentioned you were a fut-fut? It'd be interesting to hear about the Caporal's course, especially from someone who did it straight out of basic. Any insights into life as a fut-fut (and how to be one without ending up universally hated) would be pretty good read too, I imagine.
 

Joseph Cosgrove

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#16
Hey Joseph, I think you mentioned you were a fut-fut? It'd be interesting to hear about the Caporal's course, especially from someone who did it straight out of basic. Any insights into life as a fut-fut (and how to be one without ending up universally hated) would be pretty good read too, I imagine.
Analog, yes I was a fut fut, not really proud of that part, but I'll post it tomorrow when I've got time.
 
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#17
...not really proud of that part...
Sorry, I wouldn't have brought it up if I had realised. Feel free to talk about something else entirely if you prefer. I, for one, am always interested in aquatic stuff since I like being in the water and am (kinda) good at it, except for the whole 'not puking my guts up whilst in a boat' part...
 

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#18
Sorry, I wouldn't have brought it up if I had realised. Feel free to talk about something else entirely if you prefer. I, for one, am always interested in aquatic stuff since I like being in the water and am (kinda) good at it, except for the whole 'not puking my guts up whilst in a boat' part...
**** that! We want to hear about the bad stuff too! :D Plus if fut fut is so bad, then a story could help prevent another guy from going that way.
 
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#19
Sooo... Were you a bad fut fut or a good fut fut?? See, I'm confused now. Do they even offer this to anyone anymore?

I would take the opportunity if it came, but only to distance myself from the children... and maybe the better pay.
 
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#20
At 33 and half years old, going Fut Fut will improve my chances to be NCO at 40? It's worth accepting it? Or better not to complicate things and go to a battle regiment and do my best there?

Going Fut Fut in your thirties is better or worse than going Fut Fut in your twenties?

I was told that you are better seen if you have battle regiment experience first.
 

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