What is the French Foreign Legion?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2019
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The French Foreign Legion is a unique arm of the French military which accepts volunteers of any race, creed, or nationality. The Foreign Legion is considered to be an integral part of the French army, and it accompanies other military members on missions using the same equipment and goals. Members of the Foreign Legion range from 17 to 40 in age, and come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Most members of the Foreign Legion join because they have been captivated by the mystique of the organization, which is known world wide, although imperfectly understood.

The Foreign Legion was founded in 1831 by King Louis Philippe, and was designed to be a union of volunteers who were interested in serving France. Since 1831, the Foreign Legion has played a vital war in many famous battles in which the French were involved, from Algeria to Vietnam. For many, the Foreign Legion is rather an enigma, composed entirely of people who are loyal to a country not of their birth.

Members of the Foreign Legion are distinguishable from conventional army members by a number of things, beginning with the dress uniform. The distinctive white kepi, or hat, tops a green and red uniform with a blue sash. When involved in military operations, members of the Foreign Legion wear apparel suited to the application, ranging from camouflage uniforms to wet suits for underwater operations.


The Foreign Legion also has a well known band, and traditional slow marching pace. The Foreign Legion band uses more fifes than conventional military bands, and carries drums differently. The Foreign Legion also uses different ceremonial and parade music, and has ceremonies unique to the organization. Steeped in tradition, the Foreign Legion takes the code of honor and history of the organization very seriously.

To enlist in the Foreign Legion, an individual must fit the age requirement and in good health. He must be willing to commit to a five year term of enlistment. Knowledge of French is not required, because the Foreign Legion provides language education to those who enlist. Enlistment can be carried out at any recruiting center in France. Enlistment in the Foreign Legion should be carefully considered, because the organization is demanding and provides no financial assistance.

If approved, the recruit is sent for a physical examination. Upon passage, the recruit is sent to a four month training camp and then expected to return to civilian life in his nation of origin. If called upon by the Foreign Legion at any point in the five year term of enlistment, the Legionnaire is expected to serve France in accordance with the mission of the Foreign Legion.


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