What is "basic training" like ?

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Thanks for the info,

I read something about a Farm somewhere in France where you spend allot of time during your 5 years.
The basic training starts there!
and it's a Hell!
there is an opportunity to break your contract the first months if you can't handle that basic training on the Farm.

Friend of mine went a few weeks ago to join and he came back negative.
He's 18 years old, very short, skinny and light weighted so they told him in Aubagne he was not what the legion is looking for.
Allthough that was his version.

is it possible to join with mild asthma?
i dont have it but some people get asthma on a later age, what if you'll discover asthma later on in the legion?

Martin Scott

We keep trying to explain and demonstrate why the REC is the best regiment because it demands BRAINS as well as BALLS and BRAWN. We did train with explosives in the REC for our BMPE, not in Basic Training or even the CME. Everyone in the Legion doesnt do everything and NO Legionnaire decides what he will do for himself; his capabilities will determine that.
Will you idiots please listen to this man. He has more experience than most of you will ever have. Personally he forgotten most of what I can remember.
Apart from the map reading of course. I bet if most of you idiots were asked to take a back bearing youd think is was a ball ibn a ball bearing lol.....:D.
As for basic training,mine was wet, cold, and at times brutal and very basic..But I learnt to keep my gob shut and did what I was told..... When I got to the regiment somebody must have saw that I had potential and I learnt and absorbed all that I could off fristly my chef de chamber and then my section commander and senior ncos. It took three years to get on a brigiadier course... so think hard gents.
Basic map reading is an essential requirement that every legionnaire has to at least understand the principal.During training as with many armies you have to demonstrate that you can read a map take a bearing and arrive at your destination.
During the various courses you must be clued up on your navigation skills,for example if you are on the snipers course and you can not find the rv because your crap at reading a map then you will wander about all fekin night.
If you are on patrol at all times try to know exactly where you are ,otherwise the LT will get you lost and depending on the sgt,same can happen with him too.I would imagine its all GPS nowadays anyway,would a private with limited experience be asked to lead a patrol in any army? i doubt it.I was allways happy for the officer or sgt to do all the navigating until they got lost!!
Mentally and physically demanding through physical exhertion, sleep deprivation, stress, hunger, heat or cold exesses, not enough time for tenue preparation, weapon cleaning, kit cleaning etc, there just arn't enough hours in the day. Self doubt when you **** up,(but don't linger on these little issues, just move on with a lesson learnt) and lack of sex, yer testosterone will keep you going, learn to masturbate with a finger and thumb (discretion)and keep a sock or tissue handy as you dont want to be caught out during a room inspection with a big yellow stain on yer sheets :D as for best reg as stated by martin and samtoo keep harping on about, you do get to use explosives in the Rep during yer stage commando and 4cie speciality's, so up yours yea cavalry snobs, they're only jealous cause they never made it to the elite of the elite:cool:
Explosives well how big do you want them,from little cigarette bombs to 12kg of plastic and bigger.Enough to stop any amx 10rc dinky tank.Or BFT (thats big feckin target)mines,bar mines ,anti personnel,mines booby trap anything.
IED ,s rule.Shaped charges,sack charges.Big bangs are fun.

Martin Scott

Mentally and physically demanding through physical exhertion, sleep deprivation, stress, hunger, heat or cold exesses, not enough time for tenue preparation, weapon cleaning, kit cleaning etc, there just arn't enough hours in the day. Self doubt when you **** up,(but don't linger on these little issues, just move on with a lesson learnt) and lack of sex, yer testosterone will keep you going, learn to masturbate with a finger and thumb (discretion)and keep a sock or tissue handy as you dont want to be caught out during a room inspection with a big yellow stain on yer sheets :D as for best reg as stated by martin and samtoo keep harping on about, you do get to use explosives in the Rep during yer stage commando and 4cie speciality's, so up yours yea cavalry snobs, they're only jealous cause they never made it to the elite of the elite:cool:
Samtoo. Charles and myself made it to the Royal Regiment 1er REC.
The One and only elite Regiment in the Legion.........:D

andy bannerman

Martin seeing as you are an ex woodetop we`ll let you stay on fantasy island :D:D:D and remember that big thing sticking out in front of amx is not for self indulgance it really does have a reason for being there :D
Ok guys, first off I need to apologize for how long it has taken me to write this. It's eleven months since I joined up and five since I got back. To be honest it took me a little while to formulate my thoughts, not to mention get my annual beer consumption quota up and, more recently, work some crazy hours on a farm. It's not exhaustive, even as I read it back I think about stuff I've missed out but at well over 11,000 words it's already groaning under it's own weight, so I'm just going to have to draw a line somewhere and let you judge for yourselves.

Second thing that needs saying is a big thanks to Cpl K. Apart from all the work on the forum he put himself out to run me to Aubagne, buy me a McDonald's and take me round the museum before I joined (worth a look as you may not get the chance otherwise). Really solid bloke (and got me to thinking about keeping a gas mask in my car).

So here it is, crude yet revealing, of myself as much as the Legion. Don't take the piss.

C'est parti...

It's a bit of a moment walking up to the gate in Aubagne to join, scary, exciting and enough to make you question your own sanity. The guard in full TDF pointed me towards the office where an eastern European caporal-chef met me and asked all the stuff you would expect – Was this the first time I tried to join the Legion? Any trouble with the police back home? Etc. He went through my things and changed my name to Stafford (decent English name I thought, thanks God, given some of the stories I've heard) and had me sign the contract before taking me up the hill to the pre-selection building, something you bypass I think if you join in another city.

There is a definite smell on the base in Aubagne. I think it must be the vegetation or something, a sort of sharp almost acrid scent that is the first thing you notice when you wake up in the morning.

The first CCH handed me over to a huge German CCH (who was quite mad) with 15+ years service that looked like a 'roided-up Popeye gone to seed. He took one look at my nice new name and started taking the piss out the first CCH for choosing it. “We can no call you Stafford, that name of dangerous dog. We call you S***, good English name!â€￾ Erm, no it's not, I thought. Ok, S*** what? Seeing my acceptable name for the next few years going out the window, “We call you A***** S***.â€￾ Oh. Ok Mr Huge German CCH. I mean, what you gonna do?

The mad German showed me to a room where I could dump my stuff and put me in another room with desks and a TV. There was another recruit there, a Brazilian that struck me as a good guy despite our language barrier. We had to hang around in this room watching Legion videos (every language but English it would seem) and after a while a couple of Arabs and a very shifty Frenchman showed up. At about six the CCH took us down to the mess for dinner.

To this day I honestly do not know if what we were served that day was animal or vegetable. If it was meat it was rotten, if it was vegetable it was probably rotten. Oh dear God, what have I just signed up for? I survived the ordeal however and it was back to the selection building where I did my first bit of corvée and dossed about 'till bedtime when the CCH fixed us each with a stern gaze and solemnly issued the order - “No wanking.â€￾

The next day was corvée, breakfast and a quick medical. The Brazilian and the shifty Frog were sent packing and me and the two Arabs were taken down to the recruit selection building where we had everything taken off us (except a watch if you had one and whatever money you had been allowed to keep at the gate, in my case non) and were given a black T-shirt, shorts, socks, some horrendous trainers and a basic wash kit. I also got hit for the first time in the Legion by the big black Brazilian CCH (who was quite mad) that ran the stores. You would think that doing what the French speaking Arabs were doing would be a good idea eh? No.

We were bunged into what I came to think of as general population, all the blues and greens in the yard with the Rouge section loitering on the benches by the entrance like a bunch of White Lightning drinking teenagers on a street corner. You basically hang out in the yard, sticking to the shade and shooting the shit with the other recruits, it's too hot to use the chin up bars or other equipment so you just try and chill out until the siren goes that summons you to the front of the building, where names are read out to go to tests or corvée. The corvée will take up huge chunks of your day, the most common one being working in the kitchen after meals. This can last for a couple of hours to all day long and makes a surprising number of people jack it in and ask to go home when the CCH asks each morning. I remember bursting into laughter mid way through a six hour solo pot scrubbing session, neck swollen in a reaction to the apron I was wearing and sweat dripping into the basin, when “It's a wonderful worldâ€￾ by Louis Armstrong came on the radio in the other room. Yeah Louis, fucking wonderful.

Some of the recruits that show up will blow you mind for one reason or another. I met a crazy German neo-nazi covered with knife scars, middle aged professionals with all sorts of reasons for joining, a Czech guy that seemed amazed by the amount of paperwork he'd had to do in Paris when he showed up with a Browning 9mm. Most if not all of these nutters get dropped one way or another. You have to be careful who you speak to and who might overhear you. One incident that I found very strange involved a 40ish year old black guy that spoke French and some English. I chatted with him a bit but got a bit of a weird vibe off him. Afterwards I was foolishly discussing my undeclared drug using past with a Dutch guy without realising this guy was sitting nearby. No drama. The next day I was at the mansion helping prepare for some wedding reception for the colonel's daughter or something while a CCH (who was quite mad) tried to orchestrate twenty recruits with the sole command of “la-bas!â€￾. Guess who walks by in a full colonel's uniform, yup, our fellow recruit. Weird.

To be honest I can't remember the exact order of the tests that we did but it's not really that important. We did a computer test for numeracy and visio-spacial ability as well as a sort of “are you a psychoâ€￾ test. It's not the sort of thing you can or need to prepare for, if you managed to make it to France on your own then it should be a breeze. Nevertheless, some people still got binned afterwards, go figure. Bits of it were like the British armies BARB test (or the “What colour is the red bus?â€￾ test, as I call it) but overall it was a bit lame I thought. Rigorous psychological testing my arse.

There were a few separate medicals, some just to give you jabs, and others for eyes, hearing etc. A shaven headed CCH (who was quite mad) in the infirmary did our eye test. When it came to my go I walked in, presented and was greeted by a torrent of screamed abuse. Out came the colour-blindness booklet, with numbers in made up of dots. I got to the last one, “Quatre-vingts-huit.â€￾ Wrong answer. “Quoi? Est-ce que tu es un putain de mongol?! C'est quel putain de numero, putain mongol debille?!â€￾ Erm, well, I thought that to some it could be seen as 86 “Quatre-vingts-six?â€￾ Wrong again, this shit continued for the whole test. A few days later when we went back he sat there nice as pie and chatted to us all, me included. I later found out that he has a rep for picking one or two guys a day to just tear the shit out of in order to make his life a bit more interesting, just not my day I suppose. You also get a hearing test and a colonel has an enthusiastically thorough examination of you bollocks. I forget the details, they're not important, there is enough already written on this site about the ins and outs of selection testing and I'm not going to go into it all over again.
The infamous “Gestapoâ€￾ interview is nothing to worry about. In fact I didn't even realise I was having it until it was over, I just thought I was filling in forms for them to quiz me over. A big Spanish Chef who spoke appalling English had me fill in forms about family history, criminal background, countries I'd visited, all sorts like that. I even had to write about “what I want make in the Legionâ€￾ - You'd think they could put a bit more effort into this stuff, like getting an English speaker to write the questionnaires. I lied a bit, how the hell were they going to find out? We then went through it and the chef put the info on a computer and fingerprinted me. That was it, no lamp shone in my eyes, no slaps in the face with leather gloves or “Vays of making me talk!â€￾ Bit of a let down really.

The tests lasted about two weeks before the rouge commission. Once you have finished all the tests and are just waiting for the commission you will probably be sent for corvée off-base. The day before the commission (my birthday as it happens) I was sent to work at the Maison des Légionnaires, a sort of retirement home for the old boys, others got sent to the vineyard at Puyloubier. It was very strange and to be honest a bit depressing to see the state some of these old boys were in. There were veterans from Algeria and Indochina who had lost the plot or had physically had it and were looked after by their more able bodied comrades. The guys in the kitchen were cool and fed me and this Romanian guy I went with pretty well, including caviar (?!) while the local radio station played Robbie Williams songs with the chorus in English but verses in French. Bit surreal I thought. I made the decision then that if I ever got to that condition in life, Legion vet or not, I'd put a twelve bore in my mouth and meet my maker. Even so it was nice to see that camaraderie can survive the years, without each other these guys would have nothing.

The fact is that all the selection could be done in a much shorter time period if they cracked on with it. I think it drags I order to give people plenty of reflection time on what it is they may be in for. Each day the bearded CCH (who was quite mad) would do the role call and then pause, survey the crowd, and almost whisper “Qui partir civil?â€￾ Most days there would be one or two guys that decided to jack it all in who would be made to wait, facing the wall, until the admin guys could be bothered to start the paperwork. I was ecstatic when two or three of the little French shits that were in my room as greens asked for civil the day before the commission, I didn't fancy training with those twats getting us punished all the time. I'd be lying if I said I never had my doubts, the shitty daily grind gives you plenty of time to think “what the **** am I doing here?â€￾. It's difficult to say why you don't just chuck it and say “bollocks, at least I had the guts to come here, now I'm off homeâ€￾, I suppose my only answer at the time was that I couldn't face the humiliation of showing up at home a week after my grand departure with the explanation that I didn't like the pot washing, that and I knew that in the long term “At least I had to guts to come here....â€￾ wouldn't cut the mustard. What changed it all for me was one night when I was still green, we had all just got to bed when the siren went off to call us to assembly. Wtf?! So off we went in our posing pouch Legion issue pants (I believe the Americans would call them banana hammocks, we looked like some very low-rent chip 'n' dales when shower time came round) and flip-flops to the front of the building where the CCH explained some infraction we had committed to do with lights being on after extinction des feux, next thing we were doing knuckle press-ups on the concrete. This is more like it! I thought, This is a bit more Legion! I went to bed with bleeding knuckles and grinning like a spanked chimp. No more doubts, I was there to be a bad ass.

The Polish CCH (who was quite mad) that was in charge of the Rouge section when I was there is probably the hardest looking, hardest acting man I have ever seen. I think he is literally the poster boy for the Legion, I've seen him on a banner or something somewhere. I can't remember his name but he had a face that must have been chiselled out of granite and spoke in three volumes, loud, very loud and a you've-really-fucking-done-it-now loud. My first introduction to him was when I was a green waiting to do an interview with an adjutant, sat in the corridor and I heard apoplectic screaming coming from the direction of the rouge section. Next thing the rouge guys were doing the marche canard up and down the selection building while the CCH gave them shit for something or another. Just stare straight ahead, I thought, Don't make eye contact.

For the commission we were all lined up with our kit in musettes under the glare of the Polish CCH. If our names were called we shouted “Present, mon Adjudant!â€￾ as loud as we could and left the rank to join the others that had been selected. Then ensued my first Legion beasting, lots of sprinting up and down, press-ups, sit-ups, marche canard etc until everyone was about to or already had puked up. “Qui partir civil?â€￾ the Chef would demand as we did laps of the exercise yard, “Pas moi Chef!â€￾ would come the reply as we passed him. When it was all over and no one had quit we were taken to the magazine where we were given our combats and sports gear that defined us as rouge.

The week you spend as rouge is spent learning the code of honour, le Boudin and how to present. One or two guys asked for civil in that time. You also have to sort out the greens and blues at night and pull two hour guard shifts standing in a box or doing laps or the building with an iron spike. Oh, and corvée of course. The CCH was a real hard case but I got the impression that he was like that because he actually gave a shit about how we turned out. The second group that joined us to complete our section at Castel had a different CCH and didn't know the code of honour or anything when they showed up, much to our annoyance. Towards the end of the week we went for a very pleasant run with the CCH and received our green berets and went to the museum to receive our contract from an Adjutant in the hall outside the tomb of Capitaine Danjou. We then sorted out our kit and, very early in the morning, got the train to Castelnaudery.

There was a very different vibe when we reached Castel. No poncing around in Kepis Blanc, everyone wore berets like a combat regiment. We piled off the bus and grabbed our sac-a-dos and other bags before being herded up to the corridor that would be out home for the next few months (the top bloody floor). The eastern euro CPL that had met us in Aubagne started screaming his instructions at us, I'm pretty sure in a calculated “Let's 'shit' them upâ€￾ kind of way. One of the French guys actually tried to explain what he had been up to and was dropped by a sternum kick by the CPL. Lots of orders were given re getting bags in rooms and before long we were installed in our new gaffs, six per room.

We spent a week in Castel, waiting for the second “fractionâ€￾ that would make up our section. The time was spent learning the Chant de compagnie and, when we had got that, the chant de section. There was also a ridiculous amount of time devoted to ironing the fourteen razor sharp creases into the chemisette dress uniform before the new Capitaine took over command of the company and we all had a bit of a piss up in his honour. Wake up was at 5:30 am each day, make the bed, corvée chambre, breakfast and then a day of singing or learning basic presentation etc. After a week we were sick of it and couldn't wait for the “newâ€￾ guys to arrive so we could get on with the whole basic training thing. Having said that, it wasn't without a certain amount of trepidation that we looked forward to the farm. Lets face it, we've all seen the documentaries, read the books, and Legion basic training is never portrayed as a complete cake walk, is it? I spent a fair time sat on the balcony overlooking the parade square talking with my freakishly tall American friend about what was in the pipeline, what might happen to us and what could be in store for us afterwards. Probably the coolest thing that happened in that time was my first real introduction to the Legion marching when, sat on the balcony with my mate, the low bass of a hundred plus men singing began to grow. Within a minute about a hundred and twenty men from the CIC, complete with képi blanc and FAMAS, marched in step across the place d'armes, singing about death and honour in low and serious tones. It was quite a spectacle.
After ten days in Castel the other fraction had arrived and we were ready to go. We were all issued with our FAMAS and packed up the kit we needed for one month on the infamous farm (hot tip: even if you a going in the middle of Summer, take your olive green fleece, it gets fucking cold at night on guard duty. I didn't take mine and my god did I regret it).

We loaded up on the bus for the thirty minute drive to the farm of 3eme Compagnie with FAMAS and musette (I triumph of French design, I can't comprehend how much thought must of gone into the design and manufacture of such an inefficient backpack that could cause so much pain and discomfort). We were dropped off in what seemed to be the middle of rural France, at the end of a long drive. We formed up and double timed it the kilometre from the road to the actual farm building, sweating like paedophiles in a playground due to the Summer heat. We checked our rifles into the armoury and were lined up on the small field next to the orchard while the caporaux assessed our ability for perform demi-tour, droite and à droite, droite! etc. We then had to get all the equipment and food we needed for the next month off the lorries and stored away correctly. Food, camp beds, ammunition, targets, tents (for the cadre) etc all of which must of taken at least a couple of hours. It gave me a bit of a chance to look around and get my bearings, I couldn't help but think Fucking hell, I'm actually here. I've seen the documentaries, read the stories but now I'm actually at the fucking farm, **** you lot who didn't believe I'd do it! The farm for the 3eme Compagnie, called Raissec, is in its own little valley surrounded by pitons, most of which had well worn dust tracks running up their steep sides and I thought Yup, we'll be getting to know them pretty well.

Next thing we were assigned our binome and put into groups with our SGT and CPX and set up our beds in one of the three Spartan (ie empty except for the shelves) rooms that made up the EV accommodation. One of the caporaux had an iPod dock that he used to blast out The Prodigy while we got our kit laid out just as the powers that be required it. I don't know if it was because it was the first English music I'd heard in a while or what, but I remember feeling pretty excited at the prospect of what was to come.

When we were finished we were taken outside and guess what? We were introduced to the pitons by the Spanish sgt (who was sous-officier adjunct), who spoke such heavily accented French that I honestly thought he was speaking Spanish for the first week. First off it was Anne-Marie, the steepest and closest to the main building which had a big flaming grenade emblem on the side made of stones and broken glass. This was of course not done fast enough and because we failed to actually say hello to Anne-Marie, we were off again. Next it was Eliane...

The day to day routine of the farm doesn't really change throughout the whole month. Your watches are taken off you on day one so you have no real idea what time it is. You get up early and shave in cold water, blearily staring at yourself in the mirror and wondering what the **** you are doing there. Breakfast (a small bread roll and coffee). Corvée. Rassemblement. Singing or some shit, lessons of some sort. Corvée. Lunch. Corvée. More shit. Dinner. Corvée. More shit. If you're really unlucky it might be your turn to wait on the table for the sous-officiers, running in to take them the next course whenever the belligerent bastards ring the bell. You do this in whatever kit you were wearing when you get called, I was fingered for the job and had to serve lunch in full camo paint with gilet and and assault rifle slung on my back. Once again, weird.

I heard a few different versions of what the farm was like from other recruits in the week we spent in Castel. Some said the biggest problem was the lack of food, others it was daily punishing runs or the freezing cold if they had been there in winter. Our Chef obviously had a penchant for sleep deprivation. Don't get me wrong, the food was low protein crap in short supply and we all lost a shit load of weight, but the lack of sleep was, in the long term, absolutely crippling. Not having watches we never knew when we went to bed or got up but there were nights when the moon barely moved between sleep and waking. One night we were woken after what I reckon must have been no more than thirty minutes of sleep to grab our sacs-a-dos and go charging off on a night march. Before a week was through we were like the walking dead. Whenever we had a lesson in the salle de cours there was a bucket of cold water brought in for us to dunk our heads in to wake ourselves up. It took barely an instant after sitting before we all had to stand up to stop us falling asleep in the lesson, and even then I'd catch myself slipping off, knees buckling beneath me. Due to the lack of sleep and the constant standing our legs were knackered through the constant effort. It's not worth getting caught having a cheeky sit down or it'd be tours of the farm with a backpack full of rocks. There is an expression used about crap street fighters in the UK - “He couldn't fight sleepâ€￾ Anyone that says that has never been as tired as I was at the farm, I even fell asleep while marching along singing and one night on guard was convinced that a Mitsubishi evo 8 with a massive spoiler was parked near the armoury. It turned out to be a bridge. Not hallucinated like that since I was a student.

I remember one night very early one where they kept us going late into the night with a surreal mind-****. We made camp down in the orchard and they drove in a lorry with a load of lights on to illuminate the scene, it was all a bit clockwork orange. We were running about and doing press-ups for ages, unable to perform any task fast enough or well enough, then we were lined up and shown how to use a fire extinguisher (no explanation given), up to the gare, “demontage FAMASâ€￾, “remontage FAMASâ€￾, sing, back to the FAMAS, break camp, up the piton, make camp, break camp, down the piton, make camp, at least eighteen seconds sleep and then off we go again. A real mind ****.

On the physical side I found it a bit disappointing. Apart from the constant beastings and apperatifs (en position, tout le monde!) we didn't work on our fitness at all. Proper runs were only done once a week, as were marches. The marches were horrible. Whatever farm you might go to pray that you don't get a lunatic 2eme REP man as your SGT. The pace he set was more than a little punishing, I don't think there was a march were my group didn't finish at least twenty minutes before the next one despite never leaving first. Apart from the pace he set he obviously didn't believe we needed water or rest throughout the course of the night and drinking on the march was forbidden. While another group got a SGT from 2eme REI with a bit of pace on him (but were allowed to drink, however) I definitely think we had it the hardest. The marches themselves were all done at night except the first one. Some of them were hellish. When you start you're already tired, you don't know what time it is, how long you've been going, how far there is to go or where you are. Some nights it was so dark you couldn't see more than a few yards in front of you. The disorientation along with the flaming agony in my legs (more on that in a second) sent my mind into some very dark and introspective thoughts. I did however gain a real respect for my sergeant, he struck me as a proper hard case soldier. I'm under no impression he liked any of us, and if he did he'd never show it, but I couldn't help but think that if I could clone him and create an army I'd take over the world no problem. I later found out he'd just got out of prison for hospitalising a recruit from the previous section.

A word on Rangers: The issue boot for the Legion is, in my opinion, absolute complete and utter shit with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. There were times on the farm that my feet looked like they had a flesh eating virus, I got blisters that covered half my foot and after a couple of weeks part of my right heel started to come off. I developed a shin splint and lost most of my toenails, I also had a very weird sort of blood blister on one foot that was invisible until you crinkled the skin up so I was able to hide it from the SGT (probably very stupidly) and avoid going to the infirmary back in Castel, like some guys did. By the end of training I found that by mummifying my feet in elastoplast, wearing two pairs of socks, doing my laces up so tight that it crushed my calves and buying some new insoles from the foyer, I could survive relatively blister free (at the cost of other problems) if still sore. I developed tendinitis up both my Achilles heels which made it painful just to put my boots on, let alone march anywhere. Some guys had no problems (bastards), others had equal or even worse than me. Some of it was probably due to the crap socks we had, some a lack of conditioning, but either way they were fucking shite as far as I was concerned. The training staff all wore boots they'd bought themselves for the march, lucky buggers.
It was about a week before the first guy deserted, a Lithuanian guy that spoke good English. I admit I didn't see it coming. He was hunted down by the staff and we never saw him again. As a result we were made to sleep in the gare, a sort of outdoor hanger that housed the gym equipment. Each night we would carry out our camp beds and sleeping bags (another crap piece of issue kit) and line up by group so the caporal de jour could see and count us in the night. Considering how hot it was in the day it was freezing by night. We weren't allowed to wear anything in bed other than our pants and the Summer sleeping bags were totally useless, as a result there wasn't a night where I didn't wake up shivering at least once with my legs cramping. You had to be careful in the morning as you leapt out of bed because your legs would be so stiff you could easily find yourself crawling on the flaw unable to walk. It was only a few days later that the second guy deserted, a French kid that looked like he was about twelve and I had been expecting to jack it in from the beginning. After that the staff locked our boots and trainers away each night, harder to desert barefoot.

It wasn't just the Ev's that deserted. In an incident I'm not going to elaborate on for various reasons (you never know who might read this) a caporal (who had been drinking, which was common) lost the plot completely, put a carving knife through a Ukrainian recruits arm and deserted. 'Nuff said.

It wasn't all shit though. I have never seen stars as clear or as numerous as one night on guard duty, I remember thinking it must be like that in the desert or out at sea where there is no light pollution. The commando raids we launched at night targeting the sweetest plums I've ever tasted that grew in the orchards. Good memories.

The actual training was basic. Weapons handling, assault course, navigation and some woefully inadequate French lessons. We did some orienteering exercises, learned how to use obsolete radios and got the basics of NBC and laying explosives (a lot of these lessons were done by a large group of guys on their cadre instruction course that were with us for a week or so), we also played in some zodiacs. We got to fire grenades, which resulted in us setting fire to the dry grass by the assault course and having to run around in the choking smoke with beaters trying to put it out. We did night exercises and bivouacked a lot. Tip: For gods sake put your FAMAS in your sleeping bag when you sleep, it's so obvious a thing to do I couldn't believe it when the morning after our first night camping about six guys had had their weapons stolen in the night by the SGT. You don't want to be one of those guys. Never leave your weapon unguarded! I had a little smile the first time I squatted down in the toilet with a rifle propped up against the door.

You also do a shit load of singing on the farm, learning various traditional songs as well as singing le Boudin before each meal. At time you'd think you'd joined a very brutal choir, not an army. Tip: get le Boudin right early or it will cost you a lot of food. We also had nights around the camp fire where we were made to sing songs in our own language, so go equipped with some dirty rugby songs or something. I had non, but still got a resounding round of applause for my rendition of “I am the highwayâ€￾ by Audioslave.

A month to the day after we got to the farm we left on the infamous marche Kepi Blanc. We set off early in the morning with about 20kg of kit on out backs and marched all day, while we were waiting to set off our caporal made us all name our rifles, I called mine Rachel, she was hard and dark and broke my heart...

To start with I quite enjoyed the walk, we climbed up a ridge line and the SGT let us pause to turn around and admire the view of snow capped mountains in the distance while the burning orange of the dawn sun rose over the horizon. In true Legion march fashion though it soon became an exercise in head-down-and-ignore-the-pain. When we made it to the camp site that evening the huge Finnish guy in my group turned round and high-fived me with a big grin. There was beer, a bit of wine and plenty of terrible food. The next day we set off early and trudged on for about half a day, by which time I was really flagging. Let's face it, the march itself is hardly a feat of super-human endurance but, after a month of the farm and having lost about 10kg in bodyweight it wasn't exactly a walk in the park. We finished our march at 2eme Compagnie's farm (a holiday resort in comparison to Raissec) in the early afternoon, I couldn't believe it was actually finished, I had been steeling myself mentally for at least another 10 kilometres. I think that enough people were knackered that the Chef thought we'd better stop before they started collapsing. We showered , ate and got into our tenue parade before hanging around (no sleeping though) waiting for the ceremony. During this time a load of coaches showed up full of sixteen year old kids that were from a military lycee – a sort of college, that were doing a tour of all things Legion as some sort of field trip I think. When it came time for the ceremony they assembled off to one side of the field to watch us swear the code of honour and don our Kepis.
I'd like to say that receiving the Kepi Blanc was the proudest moment of my life but, to be honest, it wasn't (though now I come to think about it, I'm not sure what is). Once again I had an attack of the Holy fucking shit, I'm here, I'm actually doing this! feeling I had when first at the farm, but I couldn't help but feel it should have been harder to earn in some way, that the mythical bonds of brotherhood forged with your comrades over the course of training should have been a lot stronger than they were. It just wasn't, like so many things in the Legion, as I'd imagined it would be, and as a result it felt somehow cheapened.

The captain gave his speech, ending with “Coiffez vos kepi blanc!â€￾ and as one we lifted our kepis in front of us, placed them on our heads and returned our arms to our sides with a perfectly synchronised slap. The eastern euro guy in the middle of the front rank (who was a real twat) strode solemnly towards the captain, saluted, and promised that we would serve “...avec honneur et fidélité!â€￾ He returned to the rank and started us off for the code of honour “Legionnaire....!â€￾

As we filed off the field towards the waiting BBQ and beer that we'd set up, the Chinese guy in front of me (who was a real nancy boy) was limping and moaning. A combination of wrecked feet and brand new stiff parade rangers meant that more than a few of us were walking like John Wayne with a bum full of cocks. I growled at him to march properly, he was a legionnaire now after all. Pride at my new found status as a legionnaire? Maybe. Or it could have been because about a hundred sixteen year old French schoolgirls were watching.

I rode back to Castel in the back of a lorry with all our kit in and the CPL telling me stories of his instruction. It was cool, whipping along at night, my new kepi on my head, looking at the lights of the car following us thinking That's right mate, I'm a legionnaire, who the **** are you? Unfortunately, these feelings never last very long.

Life back in Castel is shit. After a week I was wishing we were back at the farm again. We did get a trip to the foyer once and so could phone home and write letters, I found myself writing some very garbled and honest letters to my family begging forgiveness for my life's previous ****-ups. We later got to go into Castel town, not exactly a metropolis but we could see and talk to the first civilians in over two months.

You will spend a couple of days a week performing regimental corvée. These things vary from kitchen and mess duties, corvée generale, corvée matériel, garde 24, EIT etc. The best one is EIT, you basically get to sleep and watch TV all day with the odd patrol thrown in. Or you would if you didn't have my sergeant, who kept shouting “Alarme!â€￾ and timing us to get the rifles out, helmet on and gas mask attached. Under forty seconds for me and two of the other guys. When the Slovakian retard that was the bane of our groupes existence took in the region of four minutes for the third time in the day, the sergeant decided he'd had enough and smashed a whole in the wall with the guys helmeted head. I just stared ahead trying not to smile at the fact he was finally getting a taste of what he deserved. Does that make me a bad person?

You will finally go shooting at Castel, though not a lot. When you do it involves the morning down the range where you will fire about twelve rounds and an entire afternoon cleaning your rifle. The instruction is virtually non-existent as well, bad shots result in a “Qu'est-ce que c’est cette merde?!â€￾ and a smack in the head. It's generally the same for most areas of instruction.

I grew to hate the routine. Rassemblement umpteen times a day. Singing the chant compagnie on the way to meals, the endless boot polishing and press-ups in the corridor. Oh yeah, and corvée.

We did a few marches back to the farm for training in the field, throwing in night ambushes and raids. We spent a day at the farm doing some cool stuff like learning to take and search prisoners. The mad Russian sergeant from the REP showed us some restraining techniques (do not volunteer for these, they hurt!). He looked at us while standing on another guys ankle and nearly breaking his fingers and said in a thick Russian accent - “Si ca fait mal c'est pas grave. Il est l'ennemi, il est communist.â€￾ Brilliant. These exercises normally finished with a bit of a bbq and some beer. Coincidentally I had my first Kronenbourg since the Legion a week or so ago, that taste is always going to be the taste of the Legion for me.

After a month or so of this you go to the Pyrenées to a ski resort town call Formigeur (not too sure on the spelling). This is meant to be a sort of holiday with adventure training, though the word 'holiday' is a bit strong, it is the Legion after all. We got to rock climb, go caving and canyoning. There is still corvée and shit but there is plenty of food each night and you get a bit more sleep. And some beer. Towards the end of the week we went out on the piss in tenue parade to a bar where we had dinner and got absolutely shit faced. Karaoke was involved and I seem to remember a drunken rendition of “Welcome to the jungleâ€￾ by Guns 'n' Roses followed by “Highway to Hellâ€￾ while being propped up by a 6'8'' American. Then “the boyâ€￾ (as I called a stupid French kid in my groupe) and the Slovakian retard had a punch up and it looked like the night was over. Not yet. In the lorries and off to a surprisingly good nightclub in the middle of nowhere where I got to see the Chef in the middle of the dance floor doing 'big fish, little fish, cardboard box' dance moves. We crawled out at about 4:30 am, just as I was making progress with a pretty blond girl. When we got back to the chalet the mad Russian dropped the guys who had been fighting with a couple of good slugs in the gut. The next day we slept and nursed hang overs. A night to remember, that one.

The only other major event in training is the weeks combat localité training done at another base not far from Castel. I unfortunately missed it due to a knee injury. I hurt my knee running down a mountain with a backpack on and hadn't had long to recover before the annual regimental half marathon. Mon Lieutenant (who had assumed command of the section after the farm and was a complete twat) had declared that everyone was running and everyone would finish. I did run, and I did finish, though in complete agony and with knackered ligaments in my knee. So how's that for logic? Miss the most intense combat training you get at Castel in order to run a half marathon and make the LT look good. Twat.
A word on French officers: a lot of them are complete dicks. Madame Guillotine obviously wasn't quite efficient enough back in the day as a few too many toffy nosed supercilious arse wipes survived to have descendants that could join the Legion as officers. A German CCH (who was quite mad) in the CP kept referring to the “dirty French pigâ€￾ officer that was obviously his pet hate. I even saw a young lieutenant salute with his left hand. Dear God. I blame the Scarlet Pimpernel.

By the time the Raid march came about I was totally pissed off with everything. I hated the routine, I hated the caporaux, I hated the way they dangled trips to the foyer in front of us only to take them away and I really hated the fact that I'd begun to be effected by their little games. The first day when we set off I was actually excused from all sport, running and marching due to my knee injury. No-one was aware so I didn't mention it, I felt okay and wasn't going to chicken out when it came to “the big oneâ€￾.

We carried the same kit as for the Kepi Blanc march and then some. More clothes, camo, ammo, radios and spades, machetes, food, more ammo, helmet, more ammo. I estimate it was about 30+ kg plus FAMAS. It was a hard slog. We'd not had a lot of sleep the night before and off went the sgt at his usual pace. Being a tactical march we all had our areas of observation to adhere to and the sgt and cpl were always watching. Even so we had a good first day, being ambushed and running around firing blanks. My suspicions about the caporaux were confirmed when, being the last group in the march, we had to move up the column and join the group that had countered an ambush, picking up their sacs-a-dos which they had dropped on the way. I ran up to one which turned out to belong to a caporal and braced myself to lift at least another 20kg onto my chest and trot the half a kilometre to its owner. The thing must have been full of toilet paper it weighed so little. No wonder they never seemed tired. Later in the march a caporal (who was a really nasty piece of work and had a habit of hitting people, myself included, with the butt of his rifle) stole my burner so he could heat his rations up. Way to gain respect there mate.

The second day was much harder. I'd had maybe two hours sleep thanks to guard duty and a late night attack and bug-out mission and was utterly knackered. It was burning hot and by late afternoon my body was on the verge of giving up. I was dehydrated, my knee, shins and feet were killing me and as we approached a long climb up a ridge line my calves and quads just started cramping viciously with every step, so bad that I had to be encouraged to the top by my friend the FAMAS-happy caporal. It was without doubt the worst few hours of the worst day of my entire life, something I hope to never come even close to again. But as the often misquoted Friedrich Nietszche said “What does not destroy me makes me stronger.â€￾ Even with this thought in mind that night I sat alone in my basha with a bottle of Kronenbourg, full of self doubt and fear, thinking Well dad, if only you could see me now. There was one cool moment that day though. We had found the enemy (a few guys in a truck) on the green of some small village and swooped in firing and throwing grenades, much to the bemusement of the locals. I was lying next to a tree, keeping watch up a road when a very English guy with a camera to my left called out “I say, would it be possible for a photo? I'm sorry, I don't speak French.â€￾ I turned to him and grinned through two days of camo paint, sweat and mud and said “Sorry mate, no pics, we're the foreign Legion.â€￾ before getting up and running to join the rest of the section. The look on his face was priceless.

Fortunately the third day was not so long, though everyone was pretty used up by this stage. The packs weren't any lighter but with the end in sight I managed to find it in myself to keep going. **** watching my sector, it was gritted teeth and head down trying to ignore the pain, redoubling my efforts with every pace. At one stage another caporal lifted up my rucksack and grimaced at the weight, it was obvious that he didn't fancy carrying it. There were just a few ambushes left to get through before the end and a bit of combat simulation, which I think was fairly realistic as it was all running and shouting and I had almost no idea what was going on.

We finished at the farm for the CIC and camped for another three days, doing our final tests on weapons knowledge, NBC etc, all the stuff we'd been doing throughout instruction. It was a bit of an amateur affair to be honest. When it came to the NBC we were asked questions that not only did we not know the answer to but nobody had ever even mentioned in training.

Three weeks were spent at Castel giving back kit, cleaning stuff and, yes you guessed it, corvée. We also did the final assault course, Cooper, shooting, swimming and TAP tests. We passed report with the captain and were told our regiments. It was at this point I told a caporal I was going civil at the end of training as I had plein les couilles. He obviously told a SGT who I presumed told the LT, but nothing was ever said so I thought Okay, it's like that is it? I'll just keep my trap shut and ask in Aubagne. The CPL in my room said it made no difference so I decided to just tow the line for the time being. Not to say I didn't give it a lot of thought, I admit to allowing romantic notions of Legion life back into my head again, but then such things are easy when the hard parts are over and you're stood around with you mates thinking of the future. To be honest I think I knew deep down not long after the farm that this life was not for me, I think it just took a while for the truth to overcome my pride.

And so we cleared out our armoires, cleaned the section like you wouldn't believe and with what I thought to be some very misplaced nostalgia, bid farewell to the 4ème Régiment Étranger at Castelnaudery to head back to Aubagne and on to whatever awaited us.

We did a detour in Marseille on the way back to go to Malmousque, the Legion's hotel (sort of) for an afternoon of beers and gazing out over the ocean. I felt quite emotional as I talked to my friends and got slowly pissed on Kronenbourg. Despite the disappointment I had made some true friends, unfortunately some of whom I've already lost touch with due to a building in Surrey being demolished and poor internet service in Chad (just don't ask). After a few hours it was back on to Aubagne (the smell was still there) and the C.A.P.L.E building where we were to spend the night. More beer was involved that night and the next morning it was report time in front of a Commandant.
When it came to my turn I entered the office, presented and started chit chat with the officer while my LT sat to my right, grinning at my very English pronunciation of “...a vos ordres, mon Commandant!â€￾ We chit chatted for a few minutes, how was instruction? Oh, very hard sir (they don't want to hear that with the odd exception you thought it was shite). I think I was pegged as one of the best French speaking non-francophones. He seemed pleased. And then came the moment. “Donc, tu vas au 1er Régiment Étranger de Cavalerie. C'est un bon régiment avec beaucoup de missions et je pense tu vas faire tres bien la bas. Peut-etre dans trois ans tu peux faire l’ instruction pour cadre. C'est bon?â€￾ Erm..... “Malheureusement, mon Commandant j'ai changé ma decision. Je sais la vie de la Légion n'est pas la vie pour moi et je veux partir civil.â€￾ The commandant was totally cool, mon lieutenant, not so much. It went down like a fart in a space suit.

So that was me in the dog house and guarding the equipment outside the C.A.P.L.E building while the others went to the museum for a bit. I got talking to an English CPL that was picking up the guys going to the 2eme REG. “So what are you doing?â€￾ he asked. Oh shit, time to confess. “I'm going civil mate, just asked the Commandant.â€￾ He laughed “Fucking hell, you've got some balls! Good lad, it's fucking shit here, I'm getting out as soon as I can, it's not what it used to be.â€￾ We were then joined by another Brit that knew the CPL from Djibouti and was going civil due to injury. He was of the same opinion. They then formulated a plan to steal the hand of Capitaine Danjou and sell it on e-bay with the description “One not-so-careful ownerâ€￾.

When the others had gone to regiment I was told to load the car that was taking the SGT, CPL and LT back to Aubagne that night. Shit, no week in Aubagne and a quick release. The LT had given me a real ear bashing telling me I'd fucked him and made him look like a twat, which was only fair, 'cos he was. The mad Mexican CPL, who had a real small-man-hard-case complex but who I later got to know and decided was a good bloke, reassured me, explaining that whatever the officer might say it was the caporaux that really dished out the punishments and they weren't going to bother me if I was going civil. We stopped at a service station on the way back and stood at a table eating sandwiches. The LT turned to me, obviously still pissed off and said, in English “Enjoy this last moment of peace.â€￾ Erm, okay. Then, in French “Quand tu arrives à Castel, pour toi, c'est enfeu, compris enfeu?â€￾ No. “ou habit le diablo.â€￾ Ah, gotcha. Did I mention he was a complete twat?

Well, in the end he was all mouth and no trousers. I spent the night back in the old corridor, spookily bereft of the section before a day at the disposal of the bureau de semaine doing corvée. Not sure what to do with me, it was arranged that I would join SIA (Section d'Instruction Adaptée). Prison never happened, despite what the LT said. I was kind of disappointed by this as I wanted to be able to refer to “when I was doing bird in the foreign Legion....â€￾. Thus ensued the best month I spent in the Legion.

SIA was basically formed when the new SCH arrived and saw what happened to all the long term injured guys that had had to leave their sections to recover. Rather than just doing menial corvées like the other companies he formed a section that would actually try and teach you something, despite your injuries, and combat the “instruction de merdeâ€￾ as the chef called it, that we received in training. The Chef himself was a big shaven headed guy who had broken his back in the REP and looked like a rugby league player. He was another proper soldier that had no time for bullshit. One day I had just nodded off on the table by the window when the door burst open and there was the chef, Oh god, I've been caught napping, literally. Prepare for punishment. He then made a series of chopping motions in the air accompanied by Bruce Lee noises before stopping abruptly and fixing us with a stern gaze. “J'ai ai plein les couilles.â€￾ He declared before slamming the door behind him. Complete nutter.

Life in SIA was, comparatively, awesome. We still got up at 5:30 am for appel, but, because we were big boys, were sent to breakfast on our own and didn't bother shaving 'till we got back. We did some form of sport every morning, either running, swimming or weights (way more than in section), we had a radio (why is all French music except hip hop utter shite?), could keep food in our lockers and didn't have to strip the bed each morning. The lessons we did were cool as well. The whole section had clubbed together to buy some airsoft M16's and G36's and we'd go into the woods to practice contact drills or do a parcours de combat. We also did rope work for river crossings, pistol shooting down the ranges (I missed that one, grrrr) and, if there was a lull, pistol disarming. Sometimes we'd set a load of targets up in the building and practice room clearing, much to the jealousy of the regular training sections. The Chef also showed us videos of him doing commando training in Guyane, complete with interrogation techniques you don't see on the discovery channel or youtube. A combination of us swanning around with M16's and the appearance of being able to do whatever we wanted led to new EV's calling me caporal a couple of times, I guess I had the shouting and swearing in crude French thing down pretty well. Due to the lack of bullshit I had more downtime and learned more actual soldiering skills in one month in SIA than I did in five of official instruction. Despite this the section had a reputation as a bunch of wasters. Not wasters, just taking a sensible approach to everything.

It was also viewed that I was a legionnaire that had finished instruction and so was afforded liberties unheard of in the regular section. The foyer (ie beer, internet and phone) were allowed all weekend and most week nights (hence my previous, now six month old posts). There was another Brit in SIA that had a major injury and had a full years service despite not having finished training. He was ex British army and really knew his shit after tours of Afghan, Bosnia and **** knows where else. He was also, due to the fact he was basically an alcoholic psychopath, a very bad influence, but a very good friend and kept me sane. Every weekend was spent getting hammered in the bar on crap lager with the CCHs (all quite mad) and SGTs of the English mafia, wearing our sports kit and glaring at the premier class' who assumed we were CCH or something due to our drunken belligerence and lack of visible rank. One night the CPL of SIA, a Latin American (who had broken his back in the REP and was a real solid dude) that preferred to speak English rather than French just looked at me disapprovingly one night as we waited, swaying in the wind of drunkenness, for the sergeant to show up for appel de soir and told me to “stand over there, so the sergeant doesn't smell you.â€￾ I spent that night shouting Huweee!! into the big white telephone (that means throwing up in the toilet for you're non English).
I did have one potentially deadly encounter in SIA though. We were all in our room, shooting the shit, when I heard my name being shouted. Opening the door to see who it was I was confronted by my lunatic 2eme REP sergeant. “C'est bon pour les tendors?â€￾ Wtf? He obviously wanted me to give him a haircut. Oh, so this is it, this is how it ends for me. I'm going to **** up the Sgt's hair and he's going to tear my skull apart with his bare hands. I got some clippers and went into a disused room where the Sgt sat down with a towel over his shoulders and started, with what I thought was a slightly over the top air of nonchalance, to read the paper. No easy skin head, he wanted the classic USMC style fade. I considered making a bit of a joke by taking a swipe with the clippers and then saying “oh merdeâ€￾ under my breath, but decided against it. I also refrained from asking if he would like “quelque-chose pour le weekendâ€￾. In the end I did quite a good job and the Sgt seemed pleased as he got a dustpan and brush to clean up. I stood there utterly confused as he refused to let me clean up and got down on his knees saying “C'est bon, c'est bon merci,â€￾ It took a while for my brain to process and accept the image of a sous-officier doing the cleaning. Hard case but good guy. I'd buy that man a beer.

Another thing we did in SIA that I was pleased about was go back to Raissec to do a bit of cleaning while a CCH (who was quite mad) did some redecorating. The place was very different in the winter. Freezing cold with a howling wind constantly blowing. We mooched about and I got some photos on the crappy disposable I'd bought at the foyer though unfortunately they didn't come out well. Bit of nostalgia there. We then defied death again by riding back to base in the back of a lorry driven by the CCH, who had been at the bottle a bit and drove the truck like he'd stolen it. Full on white knuckle.

I was glad of my time in SIA, I got to see a different side to the Legion. We could go to the company club and chat with some CCHs (who were all quite mad) and were generally treated with a bit more respect and friendliness than when we were the lowest of the low trainees. I even got to see a different side to some of my old training caporaux and realised some of them weren't so bad. There are still some nasty bastards there though, if I saw the FAMAS-happy caporal walking down the street of my home town, I'd feed him his teeth.

And then it was over. I was sat in my sports gear waiting for the day to begin when a Sgt of the 2eme Compagnie opened the door and shouted my name. Five minutes later I was on a bus in tenue de sortie with my bags in the hold and heading for the train and Aubagne. A week of make-work jobs in Aubagne ensued (the smell was still there, faint, but still noticeable) and that was it. Me and an itinerant Frenchman found we could buy beer from the CCH bar in another building without anyone batting an eyelid (they obviously didn't care as they were all quite mad). Rock on. I bought a Zippo in the foyer with the code of honour on for my dad and a hip flask for my mate. I saw the Polish CCH was back, terrorising a new rouge section. We passed report again with the captain of the C.A.P.L.E and the next day were given back our true identities. We packed our bags, gave what was left of our kit back (I managed to keep the black leather gloves, I call them my murdering gloves) and walked down the same steep hill I had walked up six months previously, following the eastern euro CCH up to pre-selection.

We (“weâ€￾ being the other civils, going for various reasons) got the train to Marseille, walked to La Poste to get our pay and went our separate ways. By eight that evening I was sat in a bar in Nottingham with my mate, drinking a Jack Daniel's and coke and feeling utterly bemused by the English civilians all around me.

So that's it re the Legion. Years of planning for me, months in the execution. So now we have the largely irrelevant (to the reader anyway) and possibly poignant self analysis stage of my story. I've taken the time to write this, you can take the time to indulge me in some “Disney philosophyâ€￾.

So what is the moral? What have I learnt? Well, to be honest I'm not sure. Not a day goes by that I don't think of the Legion. What I did well, where I failed myself, how things may of changed me. The biggest question I ask myself is “Did I just bottle it in the end? Am I basically a coward?â€￾ I'll let the reader judge, but to be honest I don't give a shit what you think. I've realised that what others think is, in many cases, not important.

There are some strange hangovers from it all - I have found myself saying c'est partir, swearing in French and constantly singing bloody Legion songs! (something I've now largely cured thanks to constantly listening to my iPod at work). I also had what I can only equate to a panic attack not long after getting back. I was sat on a bus and was suddenly consumed by a complete hate and contempt for everyone around me, I wanted to smash everything and everyone to dust. I was so tense across my shoulders and in my arms that my biceps started to cramp up. It passed, thanks God, but I had a window into why people get guns and go on killing sprees. Was it Legion hangover or am I just a fruit loop? I don't know, I mean it's not like a did five years or saw combat or anything. Maybe I'm just a drama queen.

Before I joined I didn't tell many people what I was doing. I suppose I was worried about what they would think. It turns out it doesn't matter, most people know dick shit about the Legion anyway. I had been back for a while before I got messages from family friends and relatives saying “Glad you're back, didn't realise what it was you were doing.â€￾ I don't know if they'd just seen a documentary or what. To be honest I've not really talked in depth about it to anyone, not even my best friends or family. I've told them some of what happened but not how it effected me. How do you put soul searching into words?

I certainly don't go around saying I was a legionnaire and to be honest I cringe a bit if friends mention it to strangers. Not because I'm ashamed or embarrassed in any way but because it opens up a whole conversation I just don't want to have with strangers (he said, posting this on a website for all and sundry to read), it just takes some explaining and opens up uneasily answered questions like “Why?â€￾.

I don't think it's changed me much on the outside, but then you'd have to ask those that know me. I know I'm different, for the better I think, on the inside. I have a bit more determination for sure, and focus. I can't go walking with my friends now as I just storm off into the distance. I don't want to come across as melodramatic but as a result of my experiences I've looked deeper into myself than most people ever have cause to. I can't say I liked what I saw but I wasn't completely discouraged either. Of course not everyone will see it like this or have the same experiences, it all depends on where you come from and how you view something like joining the Legion.

Life now ain't perfect. There's still a few things missing, but at least I now know what they are now, or think I do anyway. I'm off to university in September for a shit hot course that I'm looking forward to and who knows where it might lead. I do feel a measure of pride when I look at my Kepi Blanc photos as well.

So why did I leave? Well, the best way I can explain it is that I realised the Legion was not what I was looking for. What am I looking for? I don't know, but I'll know it when I find it, and it wasn't to be found in the Legion.

So to finish, a little practical advice. Wear sunscreen. Okay, seriously. If you want to join the Legion, then you should examine your reasons carefully, figure out what is wrong with your life that makes you want to do it and try and fix them. If you live in the West you do not need to join, you just might think you do. Always bear in mind that, in my experience at least, it's not all it's cracked up to be. The Legion is a highly operational military outfit and it's not there for you to waste its time with your own voyage of self discovery, even if that's what I basically did.

On an even more practical note: learn French! It will help more than I can say and help keep you from feeling as isolated as many who join without it feel. Also, forget your running times, just learn to march long distances with heavy weights and do five hundred press-ups a day. Some chin-ups and running won't go astray though. One last thing, guard your bog roll, it tends to get stolen.

Maybe the Legion is for you, maybe it's not. I've no regrets about joining and no regrets about leaving. If anything I regret not getting it out of my system years ago. The fact is you won't find out by reading this so get off your arse, turn of your computer and **** off to Aubagne.

There you go, I've nothing more to say. I don't hang around this site anymore but if you have Q's post them or PM me, I'll check in over the next few weeks.

Bonne chance


Thanks Alex for taking the time to give some feedback on your experience with the Legion. A good read for any wannabe I guess. Good luck in the rest of your life.
Corvee de Chotte, he had an option in his contract to leave after a specific time which he took. So he was not worse than a deserter.

I know the case of an RM officer who completed all his training, won the coveted green beret and then opted out. He realised it was not the life for him and the Corps was better off without him. However that case was extremely rare and you need total dedication to perform your military functions and take care of your subordinates correctly.
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