The Legion’s Legalities: Understanding the Terms of a French Foreign Legion Contract

Roland Bartetzko

Legionnaire of French Foreign Legion brandishing his FN Minimi machine gun

After successfully completing the selection process, you will be required to sign your first contract at the Musée de la Légion étrangère (the museum of the Foreign Legion) in Aubagne/Marseille. Before you are sent to basic training at the Castelnaudary barracks, this will occur.

While you are gathered with the other CEV (candidates engagés volontaires, or voluntary candidates) in the museum, an instructor will walk around with their fingers spread high in the air, shouting:

“Five years contract, fünf Jahre, pet godine, cinq ans!” “Don’t forget that! It’s five years!”

As a new recruit, this is all you will ever know about the elements of your contract. A senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) will read the contract out loud in French. Likely, many of the candidates will not understand all the terms and aspects of the contract due to the language barrier.

The French Foreign legion – training course (Photo: Pinterest/FFL)

Typically, instructors are positioned near the various national groups of volunteers to provide translations while reading the contract. However, these instructors may not have a thorough understanding of French and may be unable to convey the contract’s content accurately. Alternatively, they may be fluent in French but have forgotten their native language, leading to a lack of understanding of the contract information that is supposed to be learned before signing.

Five years contract

The process of signing the contract usually takes about three minutes. As the senior NCO reads the contract, the new recruits may not understand much of the content due to language barriers. Despite this, it is considered a festive occasion within the semi-dark halls of the museum. The recruits will sign their contract papers individually when the reading is finished.

The details of the contract include a commitment to five years of service. Upon signing, the recruits will be on their way to the Castelnaudary barracks.

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