French Foreign Legion today -An interview with General de Saint-Chamas

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by CptDanjou, May 9, 2012.

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  1. [h=2]I did not translate this but I lifted it from a reliable source, thought it may be of interest.

    An interview with General de Saint-Chamas, commander of the Foreign Legion[/h]
    This article was published on the Secret Défense blog. You can see the French version here. I'm giving below an English translation.

    "The Legion is doing fine!"
    An interview with General de Saint-Chamas, commander of the Foreign Legion, on the occasion of the celebrations of Camerone.

    This Monday, April 30, the Foreign Legion celebrates Camerone, its traditional festival that commemorates the sacrifice of his men during a fight in Mexico in 1863. This year the ceremonies will be held in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the battle of Bir Hakeim. During the ceremony, at the home base of Aubagne, Captain Danjou’s wooden hand will be carried by Hubert Germain, 91, Companion of the Liberation, former minister and veteran of the 13th DBLE, the last living Legion officer having taken part in this battle on the Free French side.
    During the ceremony, father Yannick Lallemand, chaplain of the Legion, will be promoted to the rank of Commander of the Legion of Honor. The "Padre" is a figure of paratroopers and the Legion. Present in Beirut when the attack against the Drakkar outpost occured (1983), he is now very active in helping the injured.
    Finally, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Edouard Guillaud will be made "Corporal of honor" of the Foreign Legion, an exceptional distinction.
    On the occasion of Camerone, we wanted to review the current state of the Legion with the ‘Legion Father’, the traditional nickname given to the general commanding the Foreign Legion (COM.LE), Christophe de Saint-Chamas. This officer has in particular commanded 1er REC and spent a total of 13 months in Afghanistan, before arriving in Aubagne.

    How is the Legion doing?
    Very good! His recruitment is excellent. The Legion, and beyond it France, attracts men from 150 countries. We are a vector of national influence.

    Where do they come from?
    Everywhere. In the last section of 50 men we have just integrated, there are about 30 nationalities. Historically, recruitment is linked to political crises: we've seen White Russians after the bolshevik revolution, Spanish Republicans after the Spanish civil war, Germans after WW2, Eastern Europeans after the fall of the Berlin wall... Today, about a quarter of our recruits still come from Eastern Europe but we now have a lot of Asians (10%). They come from China or Mongolia. Our concern is to maintain a balance so that the amalgam can take place.
    Internet has become an essential tool: our recruiting site is in 15 languages. But we only recruit on mainland France: a candidate must come to us on his own, which is a first evidence of his motivation for enlistment.

    What about the French?
    The "Gauls" - the French - represent only 10% to 15% of our recruitment. The total of French speakers is between 20% and 25%. It's a different situation than what we had 20 or 30 years ago, when half of the recruits were French speakers. We can no longer practice ‘binomage’ for learning French (one French speaker paired with a non-French speaker), but we do ‘quadrinomage’ (one French speaker and three non-French speakers).

    How many men do you recruit each year?
    Our average is around 1'000. We have been over this average in recent years – up to 1'400 – but this year we are below, around 800. I must say that our global headcount decreases, 600 less positions in three years. Our today's headcount is 7'334, of which 7'000 serve under foreign status : these are all the legionnaires and NCOs, although we have in the Legion some NCOs from the ‘regular’ Army, nicknamed ‘white cadre’, to fill in specialist positions.

    What is your selection rate?
    One in eight, which means we have a choice. It shows in the general level, which is quite high: 13.5/20. We must finish with a myth: we do not recruit criminals who would try to get forgotten by enlisting in the Legion, even if many of our men have often had problems in their lives and come for a fresh start with the will to leave their past behind them. The Minister of Defence entrusts COM.LE with the responsibility to look after personnel serving under foreign status.

    There has always been many deserters in the Legion. What about in 2012?
    Let us first examine the notion of a deserter. They are foreigners, and they may feel like going back home, either because they feel better, are homesick or sometimes on a whim. What we can speak of with certainty is the attrition rate: it is 22% during the first six months and 10% in the following six months. This means that one recruit over three (32%) leaves us definitively during the first year. Keeping in our ranks the legionnaires who made the brave choice to engage remains a constant goal for us.

    Does one still enlist under a false identity?
    Another myth! There is no anonymity at the Legion. There are two situations regulated by law: ‘presumed true identity’ and ‘claimed identity’. 80% of entrants prefer the first solution - they enlist under their (alleged) own name. But we must be careful: ‘presumed real identity’ does not necessarily mean ‘real identity’. A recruit can come with Id documents that may look authentic but that are actually forged. So we need to check in their home country and it can take several months.

    This ‘foreign status’ limit their civil rights, such as opening a bank account. What about that?
    In France, in order to open a bank account, the bank must verify the identity of his client. In this context, the Legion has a new partnership with Crédit Agricole Alpes-Provence, which allows a legionnaire serving under ‘claimed identity’ to hold a bank account and a payment card.

    There have been some unfortunate incidents in your units, with degrading treatment. What do you do to avoid them?
    First, we must be humble and not assume that this could not happen again. This is an ongoing battle on the leadership style for all units of the Army. I make a special effort on young Lt: they must not be ‘mythos’ ; I'm looking for officers able to quickly feel that the legionnaires who have left everything behind them have high expectations from their leaders and in particular they expect them to create close bond, mutual respect and trust.
    Let me be clear: the Legion is not above the law! There is no immunity specific to the Legion that could entitle us to free ourselves from laws and regulations, and I'm not here to cover up errors of command.
    The Legion protects the legionnaires against their own past or, more precisely, against the past they have declared upon enlistment. If a legionnaire enlisted telling us he was wanted in his country for car theft, it is one thing, but if we learn later that he is also wanted for the murder of 5 people in his hometown, it is quite another situation and we will surrender him to Justice.

    Still no women at the Legion?
    Yes, there are a few female officers and NCOs - and things are going very well. But foreign recruitment is not open to women. Basic training involves a lot of promiscuity. The first month, men live together on a farm in 4e RE. This way of doing ensures a quick mix and integration of all cultures.
    The presence of women would provoke tensions and jealousies between legionnaires in an already fragile environment. And the main difficulty would come from the difference in culture and approach, from one country to another, in relation to women.

    Do the legionnaires all become French at the end of their contract?
    They must first express an interest in getting French citizenship and this is not always the case. Some go back home and don't wish to settle in France. Each legionnaire is free of choice. On average, there are 200 to 250 naturalizations every year. If we consider that about 1’000 men enlist every year, with one third leaving in the first year, that means that a legionnaire over three eventually becomes French. There is also a law, unanimously adopted in 1999, which allows a legionnaire WIA to get French citizenship as of right, if he wishes to. This is the principle of acquiring French nationality “By the blood shed”.
  2. Interesting article.

    ??? Is this a mistranslation, or is man-love a major part of Legion basic?
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Yeah I spotted that , one hopes its a mistranslation , promiscuité probably means "over crowding"

  4. Basic is usually done in Castelnaudary - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia , the base there is often known as "The Farm".
  5. 2eme REP (Paras) are based in Corsica.
  6. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    Do they just let them go them if they desert?

    I thought they hunted them for life across all continents?

    Dam you Van Damme for giving me that impression in one fo your **** movies.
  7. Hollywood myth , they would be pretty busy if that was the case , 1 in 3 piss off in the first year , there are thousands of AWOLs around the world.
  8. Translation: a lack of privacy (as in a barrack block, circa 1980). Less amusing than the franglais, but the General would not dream of breaking wind in your general direction.

  9. I like the way he addressed bullying without ever actually mentioning it a true polititian
  10. Yes, it is a mis-translation as you phrase it. It used to be translated as - " enjoying congress in the Albanian manner ".
  11. there's more than a whiff of KY Jelly about the whole place. ( Only kidding Capt. D)
  12. Is it true though that they have your passport/ID details and any legal return to France means you'll be banged up as a deserter?

    Just want to put an urban myth to rights.
  13. Sure they have your ID/passport and you could get banged up in France but they dont have jurisdiction outside France unless you were wanted for a serious crime then Interpol would be involved.

    Loads about it here Deserters
  14. Goatman

    Goatman LE Book Reviewer

    just for collateral both on why Camerone is a notable Legion date and for background to Capt Danjou:

    " Legionnaires - Rangez-vous. Camerone! "

    Le Chevre
  15. I still think I'm right about the secret phone number that all ex Legionnares have if they are in trouble anywhere in the world.