Tuesday, July 9

Ring-in the Rung

On Tuesday 2nd July 2013 my company swore in its new captain. He is, for me, the fifth company commander under whom I’ve served in as many years. No mean feat, given that the tenure of said post is two years. How, then, did one company come to have five captains in five years? Allow me to explain.

I arrived at my regiment – 2REG (or “2ème Régiment Étranger de Génie” which translates as 2nd Foreign Engineering Regiment) in January of 2009. We were six in total, having been freshly dispatched from basic training to the mountains. Four of us were volunteers, finishing in the top ten of our class. The other two were unceremoniously bundled in for the purposes of filling free slots. Out of those six, three have signed on to continue their Legion careers (two remaining at regiment for now, the third having been reassigned to our Paris recruiting office), one succeeded in terminating his contract early, citing psychological issues, and two of us will be rolling up to Aubagne in four weeks’ time to bid farewell to the FFL.

Landing on the doorstep of our company way back in that January of 2009, our first port of call was naturally to the captain’s office. Only, the captain was away on holidays. And so it fell to the deputy captain, one Benoit Dupin, to welcome us to the family and tell us how it is. Having emerged from four months of the intense barrage of near-sanctimonious Legion self-glorification that is basic training, his directness was as refreshing as it was unexpected.

“Listen, this may not be the best regiment in the Legion. And this may not be the best company in this regiment. But this is your regiment now. And this is your company now also. Be proud of your company because, if you give your very best at all times, you’re pride will be rewarded with a company to be proud of.”

Little did we know how profound an effect Captain Dupin would have on our paths through the Legion.

The first captain, the one on holidays when I arrived, saw me through a four-month tour of Djibouti in early 2010 before stepping down that summer, his two years completed. I remember his ceremony vividly due to the tears he shed as he passed the torch and left our family for pastures new. Of course we, as young legionnaires, found it mildly amusing at the time but, looking back, it was rather touching. He was in his mid-forties, single and, now, no longer in charge of a group of men he had commanded and tutored and looked after for two years. Typically, the wives of both the parting and arriving captain are in attendance. For my first captain, it was his elderly parents by his side. He was, it appeared, devoted solely to the Legion.

The torch that my first captain passed on was received by the waiting Captain Dupin. Dupin had been the company’s deputy captain throughout the previous two years, although not for the four-month tour of Djibouti when he was otherwise engaged in France with training. When Dupin took command of our company, it injected a new lease of life into everybody. A fresh face will inevitably have that effect but with Dupin it was supercharged. We were buzzing. Afghanistan was on the horizon and, with Dupin spearheading our deployment, we felt ready for anything.

Anything except his getting killed less than a month into our tour.

That managed to sum the Legion up in one foul, brutal swoop. Wait and wait and wait for something good to come along, and when it does, watch as it gets ruthlessly torn from your grasp. The remaining months in Afghanistan weren’t easy on any of us, and certainly not for the captain who was obliged to take command of the company following Dupin’s death.

This diminutive yet sturdy fella led our troops for the five remaining months of our tour before formally relinquishing his command to the captain who has occupied the big chair on the bridge until last Tuesday. He was actually our deputy captain in Dupin’s absence back in Djibouti in 2010 and, more recently, saw us through our four-month tour of French Guiana. That makes four captains in little more than as many years, and now here comes the fifth.

The new guy was actually an old training platoon leader for a four-week combat engineering course undertaken back in 2009 when I was still a shaven-faced nipper, so there is some familiarity there. However he’ll hardly get the chance to plead his case – as the other four incessantly did (even the small fella in Afghanistan) – for me to sign-on and forge a fine career for myself in the French Foreign Legion.

Time’s up, and given the short stretch I’ll spend under the new guy and the lengthy time (certainly with Djibouti included) I’ve spent under the old guy, I found it fitting that it was the recently departed captain that handed me my going-away present at his own going-away BBQ.

Over the years this little traditional parting gift has seen its fair share of mocking and ridicule, some guys even leaving it behind when they go. Sure, it’s nothing monumental, just a simple framed photo of a Képi Blanc surrounded by the pennants of the company and regiment, with a small engraved plaque underneath reading “Cpl O’Shea 2008-2013”, but to me it meant a very great deal.

It’s already been safely packed into a crate and shipped home to Ireland where it will await to be hung on the wall of my new house. All that’s left are a few more weeks in my 3-man room before I’ll get to hammer that nail in to the wall.

Tick tock…..


  1. Dermot,the girlfriend's cousin thinks he served with you in 2e REG,nice fella but he's half nuts,she goes on about the stuff he'd seen.
    2 questions- Are recruits psychologically/psychiatrically assessed during the interview?
    If one encounters mental health issues when serving are there support facillities,personnel who you can talk to etc??

  2. Anon, e-mail me to discuss further, cheers!

  3. Will you continue your blog once you return to civvy street? Personally I've enjoyed your blogs over the years and would like to hear how you are getting on. Regards

  4. I have read your blog for years too and it was a lucky break (pun intended) for us all,you had the accident. Keep up the writing, we are all actually interested!

  5. To the soon to be "Mr O'Shea", Greatest respect for you and your Service sir. your postings here and at cervens are most interesting! I hope they will continue.

  6. Thanks a million guys, seriously appreciate such kind words!!

    As for continuing, I might keep blogging in some shape or form, but maybe not too directly linked to the Legion. So unless grizzly ex-military mature students struggling to fit in at university is your thing.........

    And as for the busted ankle back in June/July 2010, yeah, I wonder if I would have ever started this blog if it weren't for that injury...

    1. I'll be heading off soon to join The Legion. Just wanted to say thanks these posts have helped