4. Chapter – Basic training in Castelnaudary

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Legionnaires marching as part of basic training

We arrived to Castelnaudary at late afternoon.

A bus driven by a legionnaire came over to the station to bring us in the regiment. As we entered, I understood immediately what does orderliness means; the trees were planted in order in the legions colors, one with green leafs and one with red ones in the whole zone, the units were marching in formation, people were giving orders in strong voice.

We run up at the second floor of our newly presented building and put our package down in our rooms. A sergeant was shouting why we are so slow and a Kazakh corporal made some of us doing push-ups in the same time. I was sweating as hell in the hot wheatear and had no any idea where to go or what to do.

A few minutes later I found myself down next to the building and we went to the restaurant for diner. Everything was new and I was just looking around what is happening to me.

They gave us 5 minutes to finish the meal and went directly back in the rooms.

They showed us how to arrange our clothes in the locker and where to put our rangers. We also learned how to make the bed in order and started to learn the song of the company. (which was translated from a German chanson and was used by the Wehrmacht during the 2nd world war).

We had a bit more than two weeks left before leaving to the farm, because our section was constructed of three fractions. We were the first 14 and in two weeks we got completed by 28 new future-legionnaires and became the 3rd section of the 2nd company of engaged volunteers.

During the two weeks we started our basic training with the simplest stuffs.  Marching in formation, learning the language, doing push-ups and naturally singing.

The time was quickly passing by in the new place, each day with another corporal.

In total, we had five corporals in the section, from different regiments and different countries.

The English was from 2nd REI,

a real elite soldier and a cool guy. Like almost every English I met after, he was drinking each night and smoking a packet of cigarette a day, but he was still better in sport than anyone else. He got sent to Castel, because he refused to move to French Guyana for a 2 years long mission. He said if he moves there he is not going to go back on OPEX (Operation Extérieur – a military armed mission out of the French territory)  in Africa in the next few years.

The guy from Nepal.

A real idiot, big mouth but nothing behind. He came from 2°REG.

The Romanian corporal.

He was working in Aubagne at the kitchen, a cool and correct man but not the most excellent soldier I have ever met.

The Tahitian.

The best teacher and the worst in sports. I have learnt a lot of things from him but I can’t say we became friends. He came from Castel, 4°RE. There is a possibility for the bests to stay in Castel after the basic trainings to pass corporal in the quickest way (the chosen ones are mostly francophone).

The Kazakh.

The biggest psychopath I have ever met during my years in the legion. They put me in the same room with him for a while, but I hated every moment. He never let us keep still during the four months. He was my nightmare.

We had a corporal-chef, two sergeants, a sergent-chef and a young lieutenant as the commandant of the section.

The next week we had the farm before us, so we were pretty excited.

The weekend was easy and cool, we could buy some stuffs from a list what we needed for the first month, like shower gel, dentifrice, a dictionary, some exercise books and pens. We were ready for the hardest part of the instruction.

On Sunday night, the day before leaving, I have spent a half an hour at the balcony; the companies were going back to their caserne from diner in formation, stepped all at once and sang. When I heard the voices, a train passing by, felt the muggy summer on my skin and saw the sun going down, that was the first and the very last time when I have lived a romantic moment during my years in the French Foreign Legion.

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