The moment you join a combat unit, you pass trough of some conversations with your hierarchy. The first is always the captain, the unit commander. He’s going to ask you a few questions about how you imagine your career in the French Foreign Legion. Before you enter his office, he studies your files and tries to find out on which post you’d be the better. He tells you in which platoon you’re going to work and afterwards you’ll have a short talk with your new chief. This man is generally a young lieutenant or an older NCO. I always preferred to work with NCOs. All of them started as a Legionnaire, so they can better understand your situation.
These interviews are important because they’ll see in which brunch you are going to work later
They don’t propose anything for first, but want to hear your plans and ideas. For example: you want to be a combat medic. Your chief will check some details in your files and if you are good enough, you’ll be on the volunteers’ list. A company doesn’t always need a new combat medic, so you wont go for the training on next Monday. If an older combat medic leaves the company, you could be the next choice.
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In my case, I said that I want to work as a radioman. I’ve already spoken with some other guys before knocking on the captain’s door and I decided to ask to work in this specialty. I heard that radiomen have more chance to go on missions (even if it’s mostly in French Guyana). It wasn’t true, beacuse I didn’t do more deployments as my comrades. This was in my case, but I didn’t have a chance. Maybe if you choose this specialty, you’ll have the possibility to do more missions…
I didn’t find the engineer training interesting either. Unfortunately, I didn’t know too much about the functioning of the French Army, so I didn’t have a real idea about military engineering. A bit later I found out, that probably it’s one of the most interesting and useful stuff you can learn during your career in the French Foreign Legion.
If you want to become a radioman
it’s better if you pass the Morse test. For the first time I failed, but the second time I got 20/20. I found an excellent methode on the internet to learn Morse codes. I got a program from another Legionnaire I met in Castel and drilled a few hours before the second test. Once I had the green light from the Signaller Platoon, the first step was okay for the training.
Signallers or radiomen are called “transmetteur” in French. A few weeks later, I discovered that nobody else was interested in this brunch, but a French guy and me.
I was disappointed, because I didn’t think that I’m going to best him. Unfurtonately for him, he failed the Morse test and I became the one and only candidate for the training.
I got the good news during the BAM. My platoon chief told me that he sent my subscription for the training and now I was one of the 5 legionnaires of 2°REG who could participate in the 4 months long radio training back in Castelnaudary. I was happy, because I reached my goal, but I had no idea what was waiting for me in “Castel-Bel-Abbes”*. Right after the mountain training I got a 3 weeks long holiday.
When you join the French Foreign Legion
you have 20 days of holiday in your first year.** You won’t systematically get all of them, but the chiefs try to give as much ass possible to young Legionnaires.
The problem is that you never actually know when you’ll be free. Especially at the beginning. It makes you lose money, because generally the plane ticket is more expensive if you buy it the last minute. I could accept this fact more easily, because I could fly back home basically from each bigger city in France. Sometimes I even went back home for a long weekend. Naturally, 8/10 I didn’t have the official autorization…
*Sidi-Bel-Abbes used to associate with the French Foreign Legion, being the location of its basic training camp and the HQ of the 1st Foreign Regiment. That’s why you can hear some older legionnaires call Castelnaudary as Castel-Bel-Abbes.
** From the second year you’ll have 45 days, however it’s rare that you can take all of them