What is the Foreign Legion?

As an integral part of the French army, the French Foreign Legion is a professional fighting unit using the same equipment and with the same missions as any other infantry, tank, or engineer unit of the French army. They are volunteers of any nationality, race or creed, always ready to serve France. Men of action and elite soldiers with a young and dynamic spirit, they are capable of doing their duty anywhere anytime.

The traditions of the Foreign Legion are expressed by: - its special uniform,- its music and songs, - its solemn pace for parades,- its ceremonies particular to the Foreign LegionAfter three years of service, a legionnaire can ask for the French nationality and may also be entitled to a French resident permit if he has obtained a certificate of satisfactory military service. The resident permit is valid for ten years and is renewable.

• to be between the age of 17 and 40 years old (Parental or legal tutor authorization is required for minors), • to hold a valid official identity card, • to be physically fit for duty wherever he may be needed, • knowledge of the French language is not necessary because it will be acquired during the contract. Enlistment Procedures: The first contract is for five years To enlist in the French Foreign Legion, all volunteers must present themselves in any recruiting office in France. Travel costs and the eventual obtention of a visa are borne by the candidate and no help whatsoever can be accorded by the French Foreign Legion. If successful, after preliminary medical check-ups, the candidate will be transfered to the selection center of the Legion Headquarters in Aubagne (15 kms from Marseille) where he will undergo medical, IQ and physical fitness tests. If the candidate is successfull in passing the selection, he will be asked to sign a five years unconditional contract to serve wherever the French Foreign Legion needs him. The unsuccessfull candidate is immediately returned to civilian life to rejoin his country of origin without any financial aid. The Initial Contract For four months the young legionnaire will receive a basic military instruction at the 4th Foreign Regiment located in Castelnaudary after which, he will be posted to a regiment, depending on his capabilities and the needs of the French Foreign Legion. Promotion through the ranks will depend upon his physical capacities as well as his IQ, service record and leadership abilities.

The Legionnaire is a volunteer. Most often, he has come to the Legion to escape from his past. Generally, he has joined because of a personal or family crisis or an upheaval in his social or political life. Striking examples of this can be found in the mass enlistment of Alsatians after 1871, of Spaniards in 1939 and of Eastern Europeans after 1945. For others, those who are unable to deal with the limitations of a middle-class life, the Legion represents a life of adventure. In the enlistment procedure, selection is very tough. Many candidates are turned down for medical reasons, or after a thorough study of their individual cases. The legionnaire is seldom an angel but never a criminal. Once he has joined, under an assumed name if he wishes, the legionnaire enjoys an unequaled protection for as long as he serves, because of the anonymity rule. Only he can decide when to break it. Coming from all over the world, with such different origins, languages and ideals, it would seem that they have nothing to share. But they have one thing in common : they refuse to be mediocre. Rejecting easy solutions, the legionnaire has bravely broken with his past and his family. Having lost his roots, he is ready to give all he has, even his life. This state of mind binds the legionnaires together and explains their unrivaled cohesion sealed with discipline, solidarity and respect for traditions. The legionnaire is first and foremost a man of action, brave in combat and eager for change. He disdains idleness and routine. He is generous to the point of sacrificing both his money and his life, and never loses trust in his leaders. This trust fosters attachment, and the ties between the legionnaire and his leaders include as much respect and admiration as true and sincere affection. Alive, he will follow them everywhere, dead, he will never be abandoned. That's why one perceives the Legion as a large family. A man who has left behind his past, his social and family background, transfers to the Legion his need of an ideal, his affection equating the Legion with that of a homeland, to the point of sacrificing everything to it with a generosity which has astonished the world. That accounts for the motto on the front of the Legion's Museum : LEGIO PATRIA NOSTRA

1. Legionnaire : you are a volunteer serving France faithfully and with honor. 2. Every Legionnaire is your brother-at-arms, irrespective of his nationality, race or creed. You will demonstrate this by an unwavering and straight forward solidarity which must always bind together members of the same family. 3. Respectful of the Legion's traditions, honoring your superiors, discipline and comradeship are your strength, courage and loyalty your virtues. 4. Proud of your status as a legionnaire, you will display this pride, by your turnout, always impeccable, your behavior, ever worthy, though modest, your living-quarters, always tidy. 5. An elite soldier : you will train vigorously, you will maintain your weapons as if it were your most precious possession, you will keep your body in the peak of condition, always fit. 6. A mission once given to you becomes sacred to you, you will accomplish it to the end and at all costs. 7. In combat : you will act without relish of your tasks, or hatred ; you will respect the vanquished enemy and will never abandon neither your wounded nor your dead, nor will you under any circumstances surrender your arms.

An elite soldier, the legionnaire can specialize in or improve his different skills in mortars, missiles or as a diver sniper or paratrooper and can obtain a qualification in one of these following branches : • Administrative department: Secretarial, accounts, • Signals: radio or mechanic-exchange operator, telephonist • Transportation: Light vehicle, HGV 1 and 2 or tracked vehicle driver, • Engineers: heavy equipment operator, • Building trades: bricklayer, plumber, electrician, carpenter, painter, etc..., • Maintenance: mechanic, car electrician, welder, car painter, • Others: musician, medical assistant, cook, photographer, printer, sports instructor, computer operator.

HISTORYThe French Foreign Legion has inherited the traditions of foreign troops who have served France since the Middle Ages. Every one has heard of the Scottish Guards of Charles the VIIth, the Swiss Guards of the Bourbon Kings, and Napoleon's Polish Lancers. Louis Philippe, "King of the French" created the French Foreign Legion on March 10, 1831. Composed exclusively of volunteers aged between 18 and 40, with or without means of identification, the Legion was immediately involved in the conquest of Algeria before passing under Spanish control in 1835. A second Legion was then created which fought in Algeria, in Crimea (1855), in Italy (1859) and in Mexico (1863). In Mexico, it won one of its greatest titles to fame: on April 30, 1863, at the Camerone Hacienda near Puebla, 3 officers and 62 legionnaires resisted 2,000 Mexicans. After a day of heroic fighting the last five survivors fixed bayonets and charged. This battle, whose name adorns every Legion flag, remains the symbol of a mission carried out to the bitter end. 1870: the Legion fought in France. It welcomed many foreigners who fought in its ranks (the same happened in 1914 and 1939). Then came the campaigns of Tonkin, Sudan, Dahomey, Madagascar and Morocco. 1914: the 1st World War. After very heavy casualties, the disbanded regiments were merged into one: the Foreign Legion's "Regiment de Marche" headed by the famous Colonel Rollet, "the Father of the Legion". World War I came to an end in France.
The Pacification of Morocco and the Middle East with the campaigns in the Rif, the Atlas and against the Druze. 1939-1945: on the eve of the Armistice, the 11th Regiment of the Foreign Legion was decimated, rather than forced to retreat. The 13th Half-Brigade (Battalion) of the Foreign Legion made history at Narvik and Bjervik in Norway, then accomplished another feat in 1942 at the famous Bir-Hakeim victory in Libya. The Legion was then reunited and fought victorious campaigns in Tunisia, Italy, Provence, Alsace and Germany. In Indochina, the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment escaped from the Japanese grip. 1945: the Indochina war began. Every Foreign Legion regiment was represented on the battlefield, particularly in Phu Tong Hoa, the Colonial Road 4, and Dien Bien Phu, where they fought to the last man. 1954: the entire Legion was back in Algeria. Its regiments, at first in charge of security, were soon sending out major intervention forces. They took an active part in large scale operations and in border defense duties. 1962 to the present day: after leaving Algeria, the regiments regrouped in the south of France and Corsica, or overseas in Djibouti, Madagascar, Tahiti, and French Guiana.
In 1969-1970, the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment and the 1st Foreign Regiment took part in the Chad operations. In May 1978, the 2nd Foreign parachute Regiment saved hundreds of European and African civilians in Kolwezi, Zaire, from certain death. The Legion has paid dearly in human lives during combat and pacification operations in which France has been involved. Since 1831, 902 officers, 3,176 NCOs, and over 30,000 legionnaires have died for France; one third of them while fighting directly for the defense of the country. Foreigners by birth, the legionnaires have become Frenchmen by the blood they have spilled.