French Foreign Legion ranks: How they differ from regular French Army?

Author: Eric Sof

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Ranks in the French Foreign Legion are similar to the ranks in the regular French Army. For years, all recruits are also volunteers in the French Foreign Legion, which hosted foreign fighters through history. They begin their careers as basic legionnaires, with one in four eventually becoming a non-commissioned officer (sous-officier). On joining, a new legionnaire receives a monthly salary (pay) of €1,200 in addition to food and lodgings.

Legionnaire is also given his new rifle, which must never be left on a battlefield according to the Legion’s lore. French Foreign Legion promotion is concurrent with the regular ranks in the French Army.

Ranks in the French Foreign Legion

Ranks in the Legion are closely related to the regular Army ranks used in French Armed Forces. They are divided into three groups:

  • Ordinary legionaries (soldier ranks)
  • Non-commissioned officers
  • Commissioned officers (Officiers)
Ranks in the French Foreign Legion: Legionnaires marching on the French Foreign Legion day
Ranks in the French Foreign Legion: Legionnaires marching on the French Foreign Legion day (Photo: Pinterest)

Ordinary Legionnaires (Soldats du rang)

French Foreign Legion rank: Equivalent rank (English): NATO Code for the position: Period of service before being eligible for promotion: Insignia
Engagé Volontaire Recruit Fifteen weeks of basic training. None
Legionnaire 2e Classe Private / 2nd Class Legionnaire OR-1 On completion of training and Marche képi blanc (March of the White Kepi) None
Legionnaire 1e Classe Lance Corporal / 1st Class Legionnaire OR-2 After ten months of service Première classe Légion.PNG
Caporal Corporal OR-3 Possible after 1-year of service, known as the Fonctionnaire Caporal (or Caporal “Fut Fut”) course. Recruits selected for this course need to show exemplary leadership skills during basic training. Caporal Légion.png
Caporal Chef Senior Corporal OR-4 After six years of service. Caporal-chef Legion.png

No further promotions are given to non-French Legionnaires on attaining the rank of Caporal Chef.

Non-commissioned officers (Sous-officiers)

Non-commissioned officers (Sous-officiers) account for 25% of the current Foreign Legion’s total manpower.

French Foreign Legion rank: Equivalent rank (English): NATO Code for the position: Period of service before being eligible for promotion: Insignia
Sergent Sergeant OR-5 After three years of service as Caporal. Sergent.png
Sergent Chef Senior Sergeant OR-6 After three years as Sergent and between 7 to 14 years of service. Sergent-chef.png
Adjudant Warrant Officer OR-8 After three years as Sergent Chef. Adjudant.png
Adjudant Chef Senior Warrant Officer OR-9 After four years as Adjutant and at least 14 years of service. Adjudant-chef.png
Major Regimental Sergeant Major OR-9 Appointment by either: (i) passing an examination or
(ii) promotion after a minimum of 14 years of service
(without a review).
Major-French-Army.png

French military rank of major has been attached to the sous-officiers since 1 January 2009. Before this, Major was an independent rank between non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers. It is an executive position within a regiment or demi-brigade responsible for senior administration, standards, and discipline inside the French Foreign Legion and French Army.

Commissioned officers (Officiers)

Most commissioned officers are seconded from the French Army, though roughly 10% are former non-commissioned officers promoted from the regular ranks.

French Foreign Legion rank: Equivalent rank (English): NATO Code for the position: Command responsibility: Insignia
Aspirant Cadet OF(D) Aspirant de l'armée de terre.png
Sous-Lieutenant Second lieutenant OF-1 Junior section leader Sous-lieutenant.png
Lieutenant First lieutenant OF-1 A section. Lieutenant.png
Capitaine Captain OF-2 A company. Capitaine.png
Commandant Major OF-3 A battalion. Commandant.png
Lieutenant-Colonel Lieutenant colonel OF-4 Junior régiment or demi-brigade leader. Lieutenant-colonel.png
Colonel Colonel OF-5 A régiment or demi-brigade. Colonel.png
Général de Brigade Brigadier general OF-6 Entire French Foreign Legion Insigne général de brigade.png

Chevrons of seniority (Chevrons d’ancienneté)

The French Foreign Legion remains the only branch of the French Army that still uses chevrons to indicate seniority. Each gold chevron, which ordinary legionnaires and noncommissioned officers only use, denotes the French Foreign Legion for five years. They are worn beneath the rank insignia.

Operator from French Foreign Legion during the deployment in Mali
Ranks in the French Foreign Legion: An operator from the French Foreign Legion during the deployment in Mali in 2016 (Photo: French Foreign Legion)

Today, the French Foreign Legion is serving France when their interests are worldwide. Despite its history, Legion is not as secret as it used to be. There is a lot of information about life in the Legion, enlistment, selection, and training.

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