So I Can Forget
I need to throw away my cup of sorrows and forget: and the best way to do that, apparently, is to join the French Foreign Legion. The legion, founded in 1831, is one of the only regiments in the world that almost anyone can join — no matter where they are from or what they have done. There won’t be any women around.
The only woman ever to belong to the legion was Susan Travers, a Briton. Attached to the legion as a driver during the Second World War, she refused to leave the Libyan fort of Bir Hakeim when the female personnel were ordered to depart in 1942. She stayed with her lover, a legion colonel, and led a convoy in a breakout through minefields and three rings of German tanks. She was accepted as a full member after the war
All recruits must assume a new name on joining. This is because some recruits do indeed want a new start and new identity, and it is fairer to make all new Legionnaires undergo the same process. Soldiers can revert to their real identities after a year.
So, what does the Legion give the lucky entrant? A hard time, mainly.
Before being awarded the kepis blanc, the famed white cap of the Legion, recruits must endure a severe training regime which can involve punching and kicking. All recruits have to speak in French – even if they can’t. Even swearing must be in French, and there is a lot of that.
After three years service, a legionnaire may apply for French citizenship. There is a quicker, more painful way way: a soldier wounded in battle may apply for citizenship under a provision known as "Français par le sang versé" ("French by spilled blood").
I am sure that after all the trials, tribulations and disappointments of EP, my new life in the legion will be easy; and I am bound to become fluent in French (at least the swear words) as well.
Extract from Thoughts of an American in the French Foreign Legion
But I have to say that the Legion truly was our family, perhaps because we had so little time for anything else in our lives. When we sat down for dinner on Christmas Eve the commanding officer sat at the head of the table and the other officiers, sous-officiers (NCOs) and hommes du rang sat together enjoying good food, wine, cigars, champagne and singing songs until late at night. In many ways the Legion was more of a family to me than the parents and sisters that I grew up with.
So, what do I say to say to someone who is thinking about joining the Foreign Legion today? Well, my first reaction is to tell them to sober up and things will look better in the morning, which is exactly what my friends told me when I first expressed an interest in joining. It was, and still is, valid advice. The term of service is five years and the only way to cut it short is death or desertion. It may be possible to get out before finishing the four months of basic training, but once you reach your regiment you're in for the long haul.
The training is rough, but if you just want a physical challenge join the Marines. In the Legion you will face the toughest physical, mental and emotional challenges imaginable. You will be a long way from home, and if you don't like the treatment there's no friendly congressman to whom you can write. If a member of your family should pass away, or some other personal crisis occur, you probably won't even hear about it until you get a letter a week later. Perish the thought of an emergency leave for a quick visit home. There's no such thing, and in any case the first thing you did when you walked into the recruiting station was to surrender your passport.
And finally, no commentary on the Legion would be complete without a word about desertion. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, goes through a hitch in the Foreign Legion without thinking about deserting at least once or twice. The Legion even has an expression, «cafard en tête», to describe the phenomenon. In general, the legion doesn't mind if you are successful in deserting. But they frown on those who fail. I had a buddy in Djibouti who made a run for Somalia and didn't make it - he got the **** kicked out of him and did a month or 2 in jail. But by the time he finished the two years in Djibouti he decided he loved it, and both of us ended up together with the 2eme REP in Tchad. Believe it or not, in the end this guy deserted -successfully - with less than six months remaining on his contract. The Legion attracts all kinds.
DON'T EVER DESERT WITH YOUR WEAPON. I saw that happen in Guyane, and the entire regiment was called out on alert to look for him. My section had just come back from 45 days on 'mission profonde' (deep jungle recce) and we lost our promised 3-day pass because of it. The guy was lucky the gendarmes caught him and not the Legion, because we probably would have shot the bastard on sight.
And so I conclude. If you want to completely tear yourself away from your home, your family and all you've ever known; if you want to endure months and years of a Spartan lifestyle and a harsh disciplinary regime; and if you don't mind carrying out the most menial tasks with only the bare minimum of material, then by all means join the French Foreign Legion.
Not very funny FFL Jokes
A new lieutenant in the French Foreign Legion arrives at an isolated base in Algeria. As a corporal shows him quarters, he asks the corporal, "The base is rather isolated, what do the men do for female companionship?"The corporal replies, "On Fridays, they let us use the camels."The lieutenant is disgusted, but says nothing. After a few weeks, however, the new officer is very lonely. He decides that if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn't he. The next Friday, the young lieutenant slinks over to the camel pens and, after looking around, drops his pants and starts humping a female camel. The camel is not amused and makes a huge uproar. The same corporal comes in to investigate. "Lieutenant! What are you doing.""Come on man," replied the embarrassed officer, "You yourself told me we could use the camels on Fridays.""Yes sir," replied the corporal. "But most of us just ride them into town.
A woman reporter is driving a jeep in the desert. She sees a Captain in the French Foreign Legion pulling and tugging on a camel, but the camel won't budge. The woman stops and says, "Captain! Do you need some help with the camel?"The legionnaire tells her the camel won't budge but she's welcome to try. The reporter gets out of the jeep, takes two bricks from the back and POW... smashes the camel's testicles with the bricks. The camel makes a terrible noise and runs off into the desert. The captain drops his pants and says, "Great! Do me next, I've got to catch that son of a *****!"