Paratroops of the Légion Étrangère
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Bryn Monnery, Peter Grinning and Joakim Bergqwist for ideas, concepts and fact checking. And to Christopher Lee for his Tiranean fauna.
Authors note: Whilst I've attempted to keep the French translations as accurate as possible no doubt there are several mistakes in the article. Don't hesitate to send in any corrections.
The Légion Étrangère, the famed French Foreign Legion, has a long, glorious history but one where sometimes myth coincides uneasily with reality. Yet one elite branch of this already excellent fighting formation truly lives up to the Legion's ideals of élan, ferocity and self-sacrificing bravery. These men are les paras.
From their first combat in Indochina in France's bitter retreat from her original colonial Empire in the mid 20th century to the leading edge of France's fight against the Kafers today at the start of the 24th les paras have been tested and never found wanting. Today the Legion paras in terms of combat reputation stand head and shoulders above any other human unit in service today. They intend it to stay that way.
A Glossary of terms is here.
A history of the Legion's parachute units is here.
Recruitment into the Légion Étrangère is open to people of all nationalities, and still offers the traditional anonymity and opportunity to adopt a nom de guerre sometimes desired by people running from their problems. The Legion does not accept murderers or serious criminals in its ranks however, and makes inquiries into peoples backgrounds where possible. Obviously it is difficult to check to details of recruits from the frontier colonies, but normally these are in a minority of recruits.
The Legion's parachute regiments attract a different recruit from those joining the other infantry and cavalry regiments. They are often professional soldiers from other armies, and frequently from airborne units. This has the effect of increasing the overall quality of the REPs as well as increasing the impression that the légionnaire-paras are an elite within an elite.
One feature of note is that Frenchmen also serve in the legion, and normally make up the largest national group within most units. The Frenchmen are usually former 'voluntary service' conscripts from line regiments who have chosen to soldier professionally and chosen to do so in the Legion's ranks. The Legion is also officered entirely by Frenchmen (born or naturalised). However as légionnaires are eligible for French citizenship after 5 years of service, many do rise from the ranks. Although they rarely rise so high as the French-born St Cyr or Desaix academy graduates, normally Legion officers are from the top 10% of cadets, who make up the bulk of the junior officers.
The Legion's recruitment usually benefits from wars and their aftermath, wherever they take place. After the Central Asian War there was an influx of Russians, after the War of German Reunification, Bavarians, Flemish and loyalist Elysians. This tends to deliver combat veterans into the ranks of the Legion, but sometimes also brings national disagreements as well which can have a negative effect on discipline.
The Legion regiments have always had a strong German influence, especially after the World Wars and this continues to this day and the REPs are no different. However there is also a Anglo-Saxon presence in the REPs that isn't apparent in other Legion units. British, Americans, white Azanians and Australians are all represented in the REPs, and make up between 33 and 20 percent of these units strengths. One facet of this is the influx of British Parachute Regiment soldiers (officially AWOL but with the tacit approval of their CO's) at the gates of the Legion's depots every time a war not involving Britain looks likely.
Another recent influx has come from Japanese and Manchurian CW pilots with Central Asian War experience into the ranks of II/2e REP. Vietnamese soldiers from Canton's Indochina province aren't as common in the REP as in other units but are a distinct presence. There is a similar presence of Polish soldiers, and a small minority of Czechs. Italian soldiers, often with experience in Italian quasi-mercenary units can also be found in the ranks of the REP. For some reason the number of Africans in the REPs has always been much lower than in the rest of the Legion. Most soldiers are from Earth or Tirane, with a few from the colony worlds.
The actual process of enlistment into the Legion is a simple one, just report to any of the Legion's depots and the process begins. The Legion has recruitment depots on Earth, Tirane and BCV-4, a temporary depot is also present on Aurore to process local recruits. Enlistment is either for 5 year terms, or for the duration of the conflict in war time.
The training of a légionnaire-para is long and gruelling by modern standards with the Legion able to use techniques and levels of violence far outside of those acceptable in the Metropolitan Army. Those who pass the initial 2 week testing phase, about 1/3, are accepted into the Legion as 'engagés volontaires' and go on for basic training. The potential para has to pass the common 16 week syllabus at any of the four training depots. This 16 week period is short compared to most contemporary training courses but is at a much higher tempo, and many sub-standard recruits fall by the wayside. In this time physical fitness is honed and basic military skills are taught. However during this time the recruit is indoctrinated with the traditions of the Legion, its slow march, its long history and most of all its songs.
After passing basic training, the légionnaire has earned his Kepi Blanc, but then has to go on to further training in his speciality. For the paras this means a stint at one of the Commando Training Centres scattered throughout French territory, where alongside other metropolitan and marine paratroopers they learn the extra skills that distinguish them from more mundane units. At the end of this 6 week course they then go on to undertake the 'relaxing' parachute course and earn their para-wings.
One this standard course has been passed the soldier then goes on to a TIS Training Centre, one of which is based on Earth, Tirane and BCV. Here the soldier is trained over the course of a further six weeks in operations alongside the MSIF, and specialising in interface operations. However the soldiers are also trained in basic skills of operations in space, and different atmospheric and gravity conditions. This course has sometimes been described as too basic when compared to the year long British Royal Marines 'Red Commando' course, but this overlooks the different roles of the two units. A substantial part of the RM duties as ships troops, is undertaken by the FUVOLMARS of the MSIF proper.
The newly qualified légionnaire-para is then sent to his new unit, almost always one of the 3e REP holding battalions where his training continues. Although most will be feeling immensely proud of their achievements so far the battalions will continue to test them until his new comrades are satisfied enough to let the soldier join his front line battalion without reservation. As in most units training is constant, and as part of a Brigade d' Intervention it is normally much more interesting than most units and consequently the REP's have a very good re-enlistment rate.
Soldiers of the 1e REP wanting to go onto the 2e REP must first pass a tough selection course. This has been undertaken in recent years over the course of two months on the French colony of Nouvelle Europe on Beowulf. Here the nearly fortnight long days and nights combine with the precipitous terrain and dangerous fauna to test the légionnaire-para to the limits. The selection course is mostly one combining sapping physical tasks and challenging mental tasks. If successful the two streams, special forces and combat walker specialists, are separated and undertake six month training courses, before entering the service battalion.
There are currently 4 active battalions of légionnaire-paras in the French order of battle. These are two light infantry battalions, one CW battalion and one special operations battalion. All of these units are part of the elite Troupes d' Intervention Spatial, with three battalions active in the 1e Brigade d' Intervention and the remaining battalion active in small units throughout the French Arm. At time of writing all four units are gathered on Beowulf rebuilding after the Kafer Invasion.
The BIs are the cutting edge of French armed foreign policy, and their development has been led by the perceived failure of the French military in the colonies during the Central Asian War, and the War of Elysian Independence. Existing structures proved too heavy for effective use in raiding parties, whilst attempts to use ad-hoc formations suffered from the temporary nature of the units and the lack of coherent doctrine.
The BI are composed of two light infantry battalions and a combat walker battalion. In addition there is a command company, an engineer company and a special artillery company. The force is designed to be easily transportable by starships of the MSIF and provide a useful fighting capability on arrival. The 1e BI is unique in that all of its component units are drawn from the Légion Étrangère.
The BI has many roles, but unlike similar units in other nations these are not written in stone. The watchword of the BI is flexibility. It can act as a conventional airborne spearhead, a counter-insurgency force or in small raiding parties and indeed the 1e BI did all of these during the Kafer War. It can operate as a brigade, mixed battalions, or deploy a recce team to a different system if required. The BI places great faith in the devolution of responsibility to its junior leaders, and the morale effect of excellent training enabling its soldiers to go that little further.
1e BI is commanded by Général de Brigade Stephane Cabiro, a Parisian who has recently taken over the unit on its return from Beta Canum-4 to replace the popular General Blanchard who has fallen into disfavour with Admiral Rochemont. Cabiro comes from a conventional marine infantry background and his last posting was on the staff of 2e Division d' Infanterie Marine on Tirane. He has an reputation as a thoughtful soldier and a rising star of the French General Staff. However it is unknown how the légionnaire-paras, and more importantly their officers, will respond to this outsider.
Above: Badge of the 1e REP
The I/1e REP is organised as a light infantry battalion, although it is generally used in a para-commando role. The battalion is currently resting and re-organising on Beowulf after its trials on Beta Canum-4. Although badly battered the unit is unbroken and retains a strong cadre of pre-war soldiers who have now taken junior leadership roles, whilst the senior leaders all have experience of the Central Asian and German Reunification Wars. The battalions losses have been replaced from two main sources, the holding battalions of 3e REP, wounded soldiers from the REP and other Legion battalions returning from convalescence. A substantial number of Beta Canum irregulars who fought alongside the 1e BI on that world are now undergoing training and are expected to join the battalion on successful completion of their training.
The battalion is currently commanded by Lt Col Pierre Jurtz a much decorated ethnic-German from Ludwigshafen in the French Rhineland. Jurtz is an immensely tough officer from the old school, as well as long service in the REP's he served on exchange with the Bavarian Panzer Kavallerie Regiment 11 during the later stages of the Central Asian War and has an excellent understanding of modern manoeuvre warfare. Jurtz is a fervent opponent of the new German state, and has gathered a large proportion of Bavarian soldiers into his battalion.
Prior to the Kafer Invasion of 2301 I/1e REP was due to deploy to Aurore on a standard rotation. The battalion had undergone long build up training in small unit operations in arboreal areas, and had built up a significant expertise. However the unit was never able to carry out this role, but used elements of this training late in the Beta Canum-4 campaign in rooting out Kafer bands in the colonial backwoods.
The battalion is organised with 4 rifle companies, a command and supply company and a support and reconnaissance company. The battalion is trained and equipped for deployment from air, sea or space whilst operating with levels of logistic support most units would find unsustainable. Additionally much of the logistic structure is designed to be delivered from orbit.
The Compagnie de Commandment et des Services (CCS) contains the command and combat service support units that allow the battalion to function efficiently, these include HQ, Administration, Signals, Repair and Supply platoons. Because of the units specialist role these are organised slightly differently to those in other units. HQ and Signals platoons combine on operations to provide two tactical HQ's (EMT 1 & 2) which are capable of controlling any portion of the battalion from platoon upwards. Signals personnel are obviously skilled in establishing up-link comms as well as having an electronic and information warfare capability. The Admin platoon is only five strong, but responsible for admin and pay for all of the battalion. Repair and Supply platoons have much less equipment than normal, but are trained to improvise from any kit close to hand. As such it is a common sight for battalions supplies to be moved in civilian commercial vehicles.
The Compagnie d' Éclairage et Appui (CEA, Scout and support company) provides reconnaissance and fire support elements for the battalion and is the largest company in the unit. Most of the unit's heavy weapons are mounted or carried on light ACV vehicles, similar to the Bridgeport Swift Songbird. The fire support element is represented by two anti-tank (Défense Contre Chars) platoons, one equipped with Guiscard Aero-12 missiles and the other with CLP-1A plasma weapons most often used in the direct fire role. The mortar platoon (Peloton Mortier) is equipped with 105mm Schneider mortars with a range of conventional and smart ordnance. The anti-aircraft (Défense Contre Avions) platoon is equipped with the Guiscard Manta-1. The DCA platoon has four weapons systems, whilst the other three platoons have eight weapons systems each.
The reconnaissance element of the CEA is composed of two platoons. One is the Scout Platoon (Peloton Éclairage) carried on eight ACV jeeps and responsible for screening the main body of the battalion and gathering immediate intelligence. The reconnaissance and general intelligence gathering commando platoon (Commandos de Renseignements Général et de Reconnaissance, CRGR) are trained to conduct long range recce operations and strike operations. Sometimes CRGR have conducted plain clothes operations. The CRGR are often under the direct command of the brigade staff. All elements of the CEA are used to being split up into smaller units to provide direct support to the rifle companies.
Below: Battalion structure for I & II Batallions of 1e REP.
Each of the four rifle companies (numbered 1 to 4) consists of a small HQ platoon with an attached DCA binom (Guiscard Martel) and a DCC section (2 x Guiscard Blindicide-9) and three rifle platoons. The HQ platoon proper is ten strong, as in addition to the command staff and signallers it includes two highly trained medics and two supply specialists. This allows the company a great deal of flexibility to operate away from the battalion's tactical HQ.
Each rifle platoon has a HQ section and three rifle sections and has 35 soldiers in total. The platoon HQ consists of the platoon commander, signaller, platoon sergeant, rifleman-runner, and a sniper (Tireur d' élite). Each section is ten men strong, it is led by a Sergent (Chef de groupe) accompanied by a signaller, and split into a support team (équipe appui) and assault team (équipe choc). The équipe appui is led by a Caporal-Chef (Chef d' équipe) and includes a plasma and a missile gunner (Tireur) and a rifleman who also carries extra rounds for both weapons and is known as the pourvoyeur. The équipe choc is also led by a Caporal-Chef and consists of one machine gunner and two riflemen (Grenadiers-Voltigeurs).
Below: Platoon structure for I & II Batallions of 1e REP.
The II/1e REP like its sister battalion is a light infantry battalion employed in the para-commando role. Like all the Légion Étrangère para battalions it is currently on Beowulf recovering. When up to strength it is organised identically to I/1e REP.
The II/1e REP's current commander is Commandant Roland Derouaz, a Nouvelle Provençal of Algerian extraction who took over the battalion after the death of its previous commander during the Cauldron battles. Derouaz had served in the I/2e REP as well as commanding I/1e REP's 2e Compangnie before becoming the second in command of the II/1e REP. Derouaz has an excellent reputation as a thinking soldier and was responsible for organising many raids into Kafer territory on Beta Canum-4. If he has a weakness it is perhaps his unwillingness to commit to operations without adequate preliminary reconnaissance. Derouaz expects to receive confirmation of his command of the battalion and promotion shortly.
The II/2e REP is 1e BI's combat walker equipped battalion. The battalion has just been totally re-equipped with new-build BH-21 combat walkers after leaving what remained of its old complement behind on BCV-4. The unit has more rebuilding to do than the other formations as many of its specialist pilots and mechanics were killed or injured acting in an infantry role during the fighting. As a result the highly skilled replacements have been difficult to obtain, and some 30 volunteer pilots from Metropolitan Army have been integrated into the unit along with even more mechanics. The result has been some friction between the légionnaire-paras and the newcomers.
The II/2e REP is commanded by Lt Col Jean-Jacques Burnait, who has just returned to the battalion after recovering from injuries sustained during the fighting. Although an excellent administrator and tactician, Burnait's nerves are shot and he is suffering from borderline PTSD. The slow recovery of the battalion is partially his responsibility, although Captaine Bao Nguyen, commander of the 3e Compangnie and acting CO during Burnait's recuperation continues to do his best to bring the battalion back to fighting strength.
II/2e REP is organised into 4 CW companies (Compangnie de Chasseur à Pied Blindée, CCPB) and one CCS. The battalion currently relies on brigade for specialised reconnaissance and support, but hopes to form its own CEA in the near future. The CCS combines the usual elements found in such a formation, and the supply platoon normally holds 25 extra CW for replacement purposes. A tactical HQ, with commanding officer, second in command, adjutant and regimental sergeant major are equipped with BH-21, but are more often transported by ACV jeep.
Each CCPB has an HQ and support platoon which includes an engineering section to conduct basic maintenance on the sometimes unreliable BH-21's, and two platoons of CW for a total strength of 24 BH-21. The company tactical HQ includes the company commander, his second in command, the sergeant major and a guard, all mounted on BH-21. The platoons are commanded by a Lieutenant and Sergent-Chef, and have two sections for a total of ten CW. The section has two teams each of two BH-21, the first is led by a Sergent (Chef de groupe) who commands both his team and the section and the second team by a Caporal-Chef (Chef d' équipe). The remaining pilots (also known as Chasseurs à Pied Blindée) are privates or junior NCO's.
Whilst the organisation of the II/2e REP is the same as every French CW battalion its role and training are substantially different. The raison d'être of the II/2e REP is to clear the way for the remainder of the brigade in assault operations, whether these are from orbit, air, land or sea. The firepower, mobility and sensor capability of the CW makes these ideal pathfinder units, and indeed the USMC is considering adopting methods similar to those adopted by the French. The II/2e REP consequently practices airborne landings, either by airfoil from aircraft or from drop capsules, or in an airmobile role from tiltwings or landers. Once a landing perimeter is secure the battalion then acts in a supporting capacity to the other units.
In addition to these operations each of the CCPB has its own speciality. 1e Cie is trained in zero gravity and vacuum operations, 2e Cie is capable undertaking of long range recce tasks, 3e Cie is prepared for high gravity operations and the 4e Cie is trained for low gravity missions. All the units are equipped with the somewhat obsolete BH-21C combat walkers, during the Beta Canum-4 campaign 2e Cie used a number of British Bowman CW and as a result the whole battalion is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next generation BH-25 currently under testing.
1e Compangnie Étranger de Genie de Parachutistes
The 1e CEGP is the 1e BI's specialist engineering support. Whilst its primary role is simple combat engineering, it includes a specialist construction engineering section capable of organising and designing significant building projects using local resources.
1e Compangnie Étranger d' Artillery d' Élite de Parachutistes
The 1e CEAEP is an extremely unusual artillery unit in that it has no integral guns. It is composed of artillery forward observation parties capable of calling in a range of fire support including tube and rocket artillery, air support and orbital bombardment. In addition to these there are eight gun crews trained on a variety of French and other nation's artillery systems. The concept for this unit is that the 1e BI doesn't have the capacity to bring its own artillery with it, so instead the brigade will capture and use the enemy's weapons.
During the Kafer War however the small numbers of Kafer artillery meant that the 1e CEAEP had few opportunities to operated in its main role. As a result they instead operated efficiently as infantrymen until they arrived on New Africa, after which time they gained some proper guns. The company's modus operandi is currently under review.
Above: Badge of the 2e REP
The I/2e REP is the oldest para unit in the Legion, with an unbroken history back to 1948. It is a special forces organisation, which during the Kafer War was dispersed around half a dozen worlds in penny packets, operating as reconnaissance, sabotage or insurgency parties. It has now been brought back together in one battalion to Beowulf to bring itself back up to strength. Initially only 40% of the pre-war personnel had returned to the fold, but in the last month another 20% have returned from various worlds. The I/2e REP is not a part of the 1e BI, and its chain of command is difficult to trace, but the unit seems to have been answering directly to Admiral Rochemont.
The battalion has traditional special forces unit, but one with a organisation and role tuned for intervention in colonial situations. The battalion has the usual array of skills and specialists, parachutists, demolitionists, combat swimmers, spacers and the like. However in the wide theatre of operations given to I/2e REP it is not possible to train to cover all contingencies. Consequently the unit must be able to adapt, overcome and improvise in the shortest possible time. When it does not, casualty rates can become unsustainable.
The I/2e REP is currently led by Commandant David de la Haye, who is perhaps the most exotic of the current Legion para CO's. De la Haye is the scion of an influential English family (although one with Huguenot roots) who grew bored with his somewhat mundane career as a subaltern in the Scots Guards and joined the Legion paras on the eve of the Central Asian War. Captured at Lima 7, he later became a French citizen and was commissioned into the I/2e REP, becoming a rising star in the long, dirty war on 61 Ursae Majoris. Some cynics have attributed his rise to his French surname, but de la Haye is an immensely skilful special forces commander whose competence and ice cool demeanour has won the ear of Admiral Rochemont.
The I/2e REP is organised differently from the other battalions. Although shares the common structure of four rifle companies and a CCS. Each company has four platoons in a addition to a small HQ platoon. The platoon has a four man HQ, and two sections, each section has eight men divided into two équipe commandos. Consequently each platoon is 20 men strong and capable of independent operations far from its parent company if required. Similarly each company can operate far from the battalion. The keywords for this unit is flexibility and self-reliance.
Above: Badge of the 3e REP
The 3e REP is not an operational formation, instead it is a holding unit for légionnaire-paras just out of training or returning from injury or assignment. The 3e REP currently has two battalions, I Batallion is in Corsica on Earth, II Batallion is in Nouvelle Provance on Tirane, the III Batallion was on Beta Canum-4 but was destroyed in the Kafer invasion (although several soldiers managed to later hook up with the 1e BI).
Each battalion has a CCS and a holding company. The holding companies conduct frequent training exercises to the same standards as the 1e REP battalions, which the newly joined légionnaire-paras must undertake until passed on to an operational battalion.
The Légion Étrangère is most noted for its wearing of the Kepi Blanc, a tradition that has been revived in the field by certain Legion infantry regiments since the Central Asian War. The légionnaire-paras do wear the Kepi Blanc on ceremonial occasions, but wear their famous green beret at all other times. Only in the worst situations will the légionnaire-paras don their issue helmets. The beret is Legion green with the old TAP capbadge (there are rumours that a TIS badge will be introduced), the beret is usually slightly shrunk, perched on the légionnaires head and is pulled to the left.
Above: TAP Capbadge.
Other items normally worn by the légionnaire-paras is the Legion's écusson (service arm badge) of a flaming grenade, worn on the left arm by all ranks and all regiments of the Legion. Légionnaire-paras also wear the French-style metallic parachute wings on the right breast. These items are generally worn on all types of uniform. The walking-out and parade uniforms are the same for the paras as for the other Legion units.
The REP's are all issued the standard 'tenue de combat Mle 2298' but continue to issue the old Mle 2247 parachute helmet as the Mle 2298 helmet is regarded as being too clumsy and anyway is so infrequently worn. Otherwise the légionnaire-paras wear the rigid Cuirasse de combat over the instantly recognisable blue ballistic fatigues with knee protectors and boots. During their time on Beta Canum-4 the units acquired a range of locally produced equipment, but this has now all been replaced by freshly issued kit.
The standard weapon of the REP's is the FAM 90, which is carried by all personnel in the battalions from the CO downwards, except for the section plasma and machine gunners. The other section weapons include the Quinn-Darlan Mk 2-A2 PGMP, the M-79 machinegun (see stats below) and Guiscard Blindicide-9 missile launcher which is often used against fixed targets. Whilst the plasma and machine guns are heavy for section work the volumes of firepower they can generate is considered reason enough to carry them. The platoon marksman carries the somewhat unpopular FTE-10.
The II/2e REP is equipped with the BH-21C Chasseur à Pied Blindée or combat walker. The BH-21 is a second generation design which is now showing its age against designs like the Kz-VII, Type-96 and Bowman. Nevertheless it has proven an effective design in combat against the Kafers, although one hindered by the single plasma gun armament which has proved unable to produce sufficient suppressive fire on occasions. The BH-21C variant is equipped for zero and low gravity operations and for missions in poor atmospheric conditions. It also has provision for a zero-G manoeuvring pack to be added too the basic frame.
The I/2e REP also has the FAM 90 as its basic weapon. However as a special forces organisation it has access to a huge array of weapons systems not available to its sister battalions. On its arrival on Beowulf the various detachments were equipped with uniforms and equipment enabling them to blend in with whichever units they were fighting with. One French General was reputedly quite shocked to see a disembarking Legion unit clad and equipped as a German Partisan squad. However since then the I/2e REP has returned to a more military state of uniformity.
Mitrailleuse Mle. 2279 (M-79) General Purpose Machine Gun
The M-79 is the GPMG used in the majority of French light vehicular and static support roles. Since coming into general service in 2282 it has seen action in 4 wars and has been found to be a robust and useful system. Although moves are underway in Paris to replace the M-79 with a new Electromagnetic Machinegun (MM-97) French troops are reluctant to give up their robust M-79's for a weapon with considerably less firepower just to keep up with fashions.
Type: 7.5mm General Purpose Machine Gun Country: France Weight (empty): 9.5kg Length: 135cm (bulk = 4) Action: Single shots or Bursts Ammunition: 7.5mm x 70mm fixed cartridge ball Muzzle Velocity: 960mps Magazine: 200 round belt Magazine Weight: 2.4kg ROF: 5 Aimed Fire Range: 900m (1200m on mount) Area Fire Burst: 20 rounds (AFB = 2) Area Fire Range: 750m (850m on mount) DP Value: 1.2 Price: Lv920 (Lv2 for 100 rounds link)
The French rank structure is unique, for junior ranks it has a passing resemblance to that of the US, with four sergeants in each platoon. Whilst in terms of officers it is closer to the British way of doing things. In the infantry battalions of REP, the CO is a Lt. Colonel and companies are commanded by Commandants. The second in command of the battalion is also a Commandant. In the II/2e REP companies are led by Captains. The CO is referred to as Chef de Batallion.
Copyright 2009, D Hebditch