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A proposed military path prior to joining the FFL

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Eagle eye

Oct 17, 2004
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The following post is a response to several exchanges involving wannabes. Former legionnaires don’t mind giving advice and their attitude on the FFL, but OBJECT TO repetitive whinges, whines and gripes when best opinion and advice is already given by several former legionnaires. Read the FAQ stickie.

We give non-francophone wannabes the benefit of our experience and recall so be a little grateful for this free advice though we don’t ask your respect: that's a matter for specific 'armed 'n hostile' environments. You’ll have to take in our attitude at times for it conveys a 'mindset'.

1. Join the national reserve: it's part of your birthright. It will also introduce you to military life besides pursuing a military vocation in the FFL. You’ll wear the national uniform: part of the FFL mindset is to be able to put on its uniform with ease after returning to stores the national uniform. You'll be given a medical including the ‘eyesight’ test which is so daunting to some members in long discussions on the board: if you pass, the chances you’ll pass the FFL equivalent and otherwise if you fail. If you decide to remain in the national reserve or go regular that’s your choice. Do your time and leave on good terms. Some NCOs will have been promoted if you return. In the path to the FFL, make use of army payments for partial or total cover of travel costs to France.

a. Full-time soldiers can have more trouble in adjusting to FFL life for the temptation is to compare with your own Army in responsibility and initiative given. It's important to avoid it for you need to accept the way the Legion is conceived. Some national units have 'O'-rders groups involving all ranks. In a FFL infantry platoon, the platoon commander consults with the section commanders, a sergeant or above ranks, who know the map route and plan. Other ranks follow blind: it is a simple matter of control until the rifle section gets lost.. Also, you won’t get a whiff of a Silva compass until the corporal’s course and no map will be entrusted until completion of the sergeant’s course with few exceptions. Sergeant rank can be reached after a minimum of three years depending on your performance and conduct including 'mindset'. Military experience can offset the initial lack in French fluency. It can also lead to early promotion through the unique non-francophone provision, that is, the 1:1 ratio with francophones. There is a Filière 1 or 2 in platoon promotion depending on your psycho-technical test results in Aubagne.

b. Follow a French-language course, self-study or on-line options (below), for example, ASSIMIL tapes available in some public libraries. You’ll learn the FFL vocabulary on the spot but you need to understand a bare minimum of French. I cannot understate the importance of learning French for I saw Germans and Brits among others suffering with this dimension: “What do we have to do ?â€￾, “Where do we have to go ?â€￾. The EU Mediterranean basin countries except Greeks suffer less because of the Latin-root of the French language. Wannabes of the Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon and the Germanic language groups can undergo great difficulties besides food and cultural considerations.

2. On joining the FFL, take several documents to show previous military service. The original pay slips over a period of time are useful proof of service with your name and rank recorded. Your time in your national army will hold you in good stead in the selection process, and this reference is part of your file. It might give you an edge in the promotion ladder though your French language fluency is THE most important factor.

3. The following part can be the most difficult part. After you have completed your contract, and wish to re-start a military path in your national army as a reserve or regular, this is what you do: you break all links with the FFL and resign it to a series of memories in a bottom drawer of your abode. Take the original of your ‘carnet de services’ plus pieces of paper and metal to your national army as proof of completed service.

a. Some will spit, snarl and swear at your FFL service and others will respect your choice. It is better not to reciprocate any respect for all that you’re doing is claiming your birthright. Your previous reserve service including any good conduct and favourable notation will be dug up. Your time in the FFL will not carry seniority and rank: this needs to be earned with accumulated time and performance.

b. The standard FFL physical shape at the end of five years, that is, running times, resistance thresholds and marksmanship will be a good reference for at least one year. This applies in particular if you decide to join the SFs of your national army. It will be the best chance you'll have. If you succeed, focus entirely on your national army. If you fail, don’t worry for you’ve already had your ‘special experience’ in the FFL. Enjoy life, be happy...and blow bubbles forever..

4. In the British Commonwealth countries, its collective provisions provide for nationals to commute between armies in training or other purposes. Moreover, this 'blanket provision' between Member-States cannot exclude others for it would seem inappropriate to single out individual countries, that is, France in relation to the FFL. For example, Canada allows for post-FFL enlistment in its ranks with a completed FFL contract. In the EU framework, post-FFL enlistment is less clear. Denmark, Norway, Germany, the UK and Portugal allow post-FFL enlistment while Holland and possibly Poland have constitutional articles that forbid it. Other EU countries TBC. The EU twin threads seem to be recognised dual nationality status or restricting constitutional article. The USA allows post-FFL enlistment in the National Guard, and career soldiers, up to captain rank only and to Green card holders. Israel allows post-FFL enlistment. The Swiss sling their nationals' sorry ass into jail or fine it for joining the FFL.

Clearly, it's another matter if you're on the run...

Also, read Ethno's 'Mindset' post below and advice from other former legionnaires. Come back to the board for clarification.

Survival vocabulary from Day 1 in the FFL.
Appel!..Réveil!..Debout!Roll call!..Wake up!..Get up!
En bas!Go downstairs!!
Corvée compagnie!: general cleaning duties inside the building (far too many in your job description)
Consignés (à la semaine!):Punishment detail to the company office! Extra cleaning..
Corvée quartier!:general cigi-butt sweep of area outside company building.
En position (pour les pompes)! En bas..en haut! Take the push-up position!..Up..Down! (loads in your job description..)
Rassemblement compagnie!Company parade!
Bouffe!..Gamelle!..Chow time!..Grub's up!; Rabio!..Extra food!

Basic commands on parade:
On platoon parade, the alignments are set by the front row and right column of the formation (back profile view 10x3). In marching step formation, alignments are set by the left column (back endview 3x10). In the latter formation, the ‘homme de base’ is the tallest dude in the front row and left column of the platoon.

Section garde-à-vous! En colonne couvrez!If you’re in the pertinent outer column, take a left arm’s distance from the dude in front; the front row only takes a left elbow’s distance from the next door dude. In the front row, look left or right for alignment without seeing the next dudes except for the nose of the ‘homme de base’ who looks straight ahead. In the columns, just see the ears of the dude in front.
Fixe! Bring your arm or elbow with a thud to the side of your body after this command. Look front if you’re in the front row.
Revenez! Repeat the Couvrez! command.
Repos!Stand..easy! left boot apart at shoulders’ width; left hand clasps right fist on your back at waist-height.
Garde à vous! Left joins right boot and arms join the side of the body with straightened fingers. Corporal or sergeant salutes and presents the assembled platoon on the parade to the higher rank.
A gauche..gauche!Left..turn!
A droite..droite!Right..turn!
En avant..marche!Forward..march! The ‘homme de base’ sets the marching step for the platoon.
Appuyez à gauche (droite)! Left (right) wheel!
Mets-toi au pas!March in step! (when you’re not keeping step)
Marquez le pas!Mark time!
Section...halte!Stop at the second step after this order is given also on the left step.
Demie tour droite!..About..turn!Take 1 short step back and slighty across with the right boot, and swivel on both heels to the right. Join left to right boot. Keep hands fixed to your side.
Direction droit devant..au pas gymna-stique!..Marche!Prepare to double..double! Bring both fists up and thump your chest. Run forward in half-steps.
Fixe moi dans les yeux! Look into my eye!..('Aliens' USMC MS Apone's claim to eternal fame :))
Rentre dans les rangs/Sort des rangs!Step into/out of the platoon formation!

At the end of parade:
Section, à droite…droite! Colonne de gauche, déboîtez! Platoon..right turn! Left column fall out!
The alternative is when the corporal or sergeant salutes and says:
Section, rompez les rangs! To your duty duties - fall out! In uniform with beret, the platoon salutes and falls out without turning to either side. In sports kit or without beret, you sprint to billets breaking world records up staircases…

Free on-line French-language courses:
Are you up to this?:

Eagle eye

Oct 17, 2004
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Ethno's Post on FFL mindset: this post is by a civilian without military background but a detailed knowledge from contacts inside the FFL.

EthNeo said:
I will do my best to answer your questions, but be warned that these are very difficult to handle because they are actually very personal. What I mean is that your questions directly imply one's personal vision of the army: some people will think a completely different way than the one thought by some others. That is why I want to apologize to all the people who think different and will blame me for doing so: please, forgive me.

Anyway, here are my two cents.

You seem particularly afraid by the so-called "moments of boredom". I guess this is an issue shared by all civilians, by all the persons who think about the army but actually never experienced it. I know from experience that, when you never were in the military, your thoughts are only speculations, expectations about some good things and some bad things that could happen.

In fact, the real question is, what do you think the army is or, eventually, what do you want? Like everyplace on Earth I guess, the army is full of paradoxes and contradictions. Like for everything, you will have to make concessions. Life would be too easy if everything was always granted, if everything was only like we wanted it to be.

For sure, it's the same thing in the military world. You're maybe interested in joining for the adventurous life, the thrill, the action, the combat training, the breath-taking experiences shared with a group of 'buddies'... You're full of great images about what the army will be and so on. But these are just images, some thoughts elaborated by a civilian mind. You maybe did a lot of research, interrogated friends or family members who happened to serve in the ranks, you gathered information to build a frame you could use to imagine yourself in...

Well, realize that the army (and the French Foreign Legion especially) is not only made of adventures and so on. The military life in itself, its environment, is full of 'drawbacks', or so it seems for the civilian. Indeed, you won't spend all your time on the firing range or running through the jungle. These moments will actually be really rare compared to the hours you will have to spend doing 'shitty' tasks: moving stupid things all around, cleaning spots that are already clean, listening to superiors far 'dumber' that you are, dealing with the 'social cases' from your unit, and so on... A lot of these things could easily drive you nuts, that is for sure.

Now, the big thing is to know if you will be able to handle them? Will you manage to get over these things to concentrate on what you're here for? And by the way, what is this? To become a professional soldier? Well, the path that leads to such a skilled profession (and in the French Foreign Legion especially) is a very narrow and straight one: either you deal with the shit all around you and you move to the direction you're ordered to, or you're out. Keeping in mind what is your goal (becoming this professional soldier) will help you a lot through all this process. You have to think about this advanced state you wanna attain. All the crap around you is just irrelevant, these are just minor obstacles. You will be judged upon your ability to be a good soldier. This means your ability to follow orders, even the dumbest ones! Useless jobs and useless moments can be considered as part of this trial. You can imagine them as some parts of a complex scheme whose purpose is to shape your aptitude to survive psychologically: this simply means that things are whatever you make of them. Look at them from an other angle, more positively, and you'll find utility in them.

Keep the final objective in mind, and all the rest will become secondary, with the only purpose to make you stronger somehow!

This whole thing is just a question of state of mind. Even more than the physically aspect, I believe this is the true thing to evaluate, because this is what will really destroy or at least demotivate you if you're not ready. If you join with the wrong expectations you might end up really screwed, prisoner of a life worse than hell. For some people, indeed, it is very hard to conceive having to follow stupid orders all day long. Some know it before: they hate the military world and blah blah blah. Some realize they have misconceived the whole thing only when they are in already: that's a problem. That is why you need to think about. The military life is full of constraints, that is right. Is it counterweighted by what you think it will bring you? Only you can answer this question.

Some people love the military life, with every aspect of it in mind. Some hate it. I believe it is impossible to know how you will behave before you actually experience it. That is part of this adventurous mind set you fully need to join the Legion. It's a five-year long jump into the unknown... will you be tough enough to take your chance?

«These are initial indicators to my FFL approach. Just think carefully along the following lines before and after joining if you do:

1. The FFL five-year contract is a long time. In fact, it is the longest contract for the rank-and-file in Western armies. Most such armies start with a three-year contract.

2. Learn as much French as you can before joining the FFL. Learn all of it from the day you formally sign your FFL contract, that is, present, simple past vs passé composé (...), future, the conditionals, imperatives with, perhaps the exception of the subjunctive. If you want promotion as a 'lifer', learn this tense during your renewed contracts. Imperatives (!) are quickly learnt and understood from the first day.

3. Don't expect anything and you CANNOT be disappointed in the FFL. The FFL provides what it thinks is necessary for you to meet its requirement and not the other way round. Excessive expectations is a recurrent and major mistake in the FFL especially among soldiers from other national armies.

4. Soak in the non-francophone and foreign dimension of the FFL from your D(ecision)-Day 1 to join the FFL. There is nothing quite like in the armies of Western democracies. Be quietly proud to be part of the non-francophone foreign dimension of the FFL to the end.

5. Don't try to compare the FFL with your own army and you'll survive. Those that do desert. If you fight it, it will break you and you'll end up deserting. This last outcome is a waste of your time and the FFL's effort and scarce resources. So, don't bum out if you decide to cross the FFL threshold.

6. Live the Legion a day at a time and all will be fine. You'll learn to be patient if you do. Adapt to it and you'll prosper and the Legion can become your home.

7. No hardship or discomfort will last an eternity unless you're called to an early appointment with your maker...You're paid until that day... :)

8. Get organised and anticipate the routine when you can. Apply your initiative within these parameters and especially in live fire scenarios with real enemies and established rules of engagement.

9. Follow the drills and instructions.

10. Excel at military skills at every opportunity: running, shooting, assault course, orienteering. Enjoy the singing. :)

11. GO for promotion based on your military performance as a non-francophone. There is specific and unique provision for non-francophones in the FFL rank hierarchy.

12. You'll hate to love to sweep, scratch, clean floors, toilets and regimental kitchens, to maintain your kit and billets before you'll enjoy to soldier.

13. You'll meet difficult people including the "lifers" for up to a prolonged period of time before you'll be thrown into difficult situations involving live-fire tactical deployment with real enemy.

14. Relax when you can and shake trees with a discerning taste, and be careful with those current running diseases. And don't become a resident alcoholic in the foyer or substance abuser elsewhere: you'll start a quiet descent into Hell.

15. Shoot-to-kill in a live bullet scenario with a clearly identified enemy shooting at you. Stick your FAMAS baionnette in the right place as an alternative in the same scenario. Both come under 'rules of engagement' with/without extreme prejudice.

16. Maintain your sense of perspective and common sense however crazy it can become so that you can adjust to civilian life on your decision to leave the FFL. Put your humanity on pilot light but don't extinguish it if you return to civvy street.

17. If you decide ot leave the FFL, you'll have met difficulty people and dealt with difficult situations. Don't slam the door on leaving: the FFL paid you its regular salary and given you its protection, its version of professionalism and military adventure.

18. Life's a bitch and then you marry one. ;) » 23rd October 2004 by Eagle eye.

PAY SCALES: http://www.br-legion.com/defaultsal.htm The Forex rate set by the European Central Bank (ECB) at the launch of the Euro was $1,16/euro and is the adopted rate by this URL. Also, 20-day paid leave in 1st year, 35-days in the 2nd year and 45-days from the third-year onwards. Holidays are taken and cannot be accumulated over years.
GENERAL REFERENCES: www.foreignlegionlife.com
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Eagle eye

Oct 17, 2004
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Also read this perceptive post from someone who served in the Australian Army...
Mick said:
I'm just throwing ideas to you all, who are looking at trying out for the FFL that is!
For those who have some idea of what it’s like in a military org. Think back to the day you first joined...do you remember that day! I do with great detail...why? It's the day you got striped down to nothing and rebuilt...nothing you can do i.e. Learning French, running up hills, weights, boxing etc is going to prepare you enough for what I would say is Day 1 into the darkest depths of hell you know. Remember it is going to be some of the hardest training that you can find! Just relax, take the time you have before you go and try out...and think really hard about why you want to do this...the old boys on here are not saying the things they say just for laughs!
They have been there and done this...some of them are trying to save your life...have some of you thought about that you might die? Loose a limb, loose your mind...has anyone thought about PTSD?
I have been thinking some of the things that people have said on here and I don't think some of you get the picture! Take off the rose coloured glasses, take a step back for a moment and think. Why are you wanting this so much! Is it because you have nothing better to do with your life? Is it you think the legion is cool? I know people will say everybody has their own reasons for joining! I agree! Nobody knows what it will be like (except the people who have been there and got the T Shirt to prove it! (a figure of speech)
I would say that some of you would do really well in their own militaries...give them a go first!
Get your self out of the mind set that you are going to join the legion! Look at what you have around you, family, friends, maybe a bit of freedom! What about having a bit of a sleep in on a cold Sunday morning? Popping down to the shops for a quick bite to eat?
I have drawn these thoughts on a number of things, firstly from my own military experience. Secondly from living in a country where I am the only foreigner in a city of 600,000 people and third from the amount of traveling I have done with and without the military!
I have a question....has anyone felt what been really lonely feels like? I thought I did...but when I arrived in China...I soon found out I knew nothing about it! The point I am trying to make is...what you have now will go...doesn't matter have much you think you know about the legion it will not help you at all until you go and try...if the legion wants you to know all of this info it would send you a joining instruction...some of you read the advise given to you by the old boys and you say to yourself "doesn't matter. I’m still going to go". As I said before take a step back and look into your soul and try to find the answers to why are you so hung up on this idea.
Now I am not saying that anyone is wrong, you entitled to your own opinions (which you will lose if you go to the Legion). Also run these question through your minds:

1.What makes you want to join the French Foreign Legion?

2.What do you think is the most important thing in your life?

3.Can you leave everything that you know for the Legion?

4.Are you prepared to sell your soul, loose all your rights you have to the Legion?

5.Do you have a clear image as far as what you are to the Legion?

6.Are you willing to die for these reasons you have?

There are hundreds of question that could ask yourself about this subject but if you answer them honestly and you find that you answer “Noâ€￾ to just one of them. I would do a rethink on going!
These are just my thoughts! If you think my ideas are extreme that is you’re right. Or are wrong you are more than welcome to bag the crap out of me!
Good luck to you who go and good luck to you who don’t!
Thank for your time, your thoughts on this would be well received.
(Oh and the term "Old boys" has nohing to do with age! Its just a figure of speech)
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