NIMES, France --
The French Foreign Legion was established March 10, 1831 and has members hailing from 140 countries, but less than 8,000 people in the world don the beret and claim the title, French Legionnaire. For three days, Marines and sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit had the privilege of training alongside them.
Marines and sailors assigned to India Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, trained with the 6th Light Armored Brigade, 2nd Foreign Legion Regiment, 5th Company, at Le Camp Des Garrigues in Nimes, France, March 26-28, 2013.
The United States Marine Corps is founded on its traditions, discipline, and its core values – honor, courage and commitment. Some say no other fighting force in the world compares to its intense training and discipline, but Marines and sailors of India Co. would argue the French Foreign Legion rivals that history.
“Our mission was to build an ongoing relationship with the 6th Light Armored Brigade,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew K. Easley, a Woodbridge, Va., native, and platoon sergeant with India Co. “The French Foreign Legion has a lot of similarities to the Marine Corps as far as esprit de corps. Their tactics are very similar with only a few minor differences, but the way they train, equip and prepare as a whole - as a global force in readiness - is very similar to how we operate.”
Many of the Marines have never stepped foot on the soil of a foreign country, let alone trained with some of the most elite members of that nation’s military, but that didn’t stop the bond between brothers who share common mindsets and values from forming almost instantly between the two companies.
“The Marines and French Legionnaires meshed well together from the start,” said 1st Lt. Daniel M. Dellamonica, executive officer of India Co. “They share the same warrior ethos and have very similar ways of thinking.”
The Marines and French Legionnaires split up by platoon and trained in a cohesive manner, sharing tactics, techniques and procedures, weapon familiarization and stories. They conducted multiple live-fire ranges, movement to contact exercises, and a two-company, night infiltration movement that culminated in executing a hasty, blank-fire company attack.
It was often said that for most recruits going through recruit training in the French Foreign Legion, the hardest part was not the physical aspect, but the requirement to learn French. The noncommissioned officers, whose average age is 36, ensured that happened.
“One of the main things I took away from this exercise is not all of them are French,” said Easley. “Many of them are foreigners. It is necessary for them to speak French, so in order for them to do so they have to expand their minds and learn; their NCOs are a real core in enforcing the mental standpoint in being a legionnaire. It is one of the things I will take back with me to the Corps. I would like us to go back in the direction where the NCO is the driving force behind the mental development of junior Marines.”
At the end of the exercise, India Co.’s executive officer hoped that this exercise built confidence in the Marines if they ever deploy with a foreign nation.
“I hope the biggest thing the Marines take away is the fact they are able to go into a foreign country with another foreign ally and be able to employ themselves and adjacent units without any major problems and always being able to complete the mission,” said Dellamonica.