They had been on the farm for three weeks. They came from Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, and Ukraine. Seven actually came from France, but had been given new identities as “French Canadian.” After the recruits returned to the compound they had a while to wait before dinner. In the dirt yard a slim, bullying corporal barked them into a disciplined formation in a parade-rest stance: feet apart, eyes fixed forward, hands clasped behind their backs. Then the sky opened up. The men were drenched but did not care. In the winter they might have been less indifferent. Men who have been through winters on the farms insist as a result that you should never join the Legion then. You should go to Morocco, sleep under a bridge, do anything, and wait for spring. The rain stopped. The sergeant extinguished his cigarette. For me, in French, he spared precisely four words: “It is cocktail hour.” He walked across the compound, released the men from formation, and led them through the barn to the back side, where the cocktails were being served. The cocktails were pull-ups and dips and a sequence of synchronized sit-ups punctuated by two brief rests during which the slim corporal strolled across the abdomens of the recruits. Then it was run to the barn to wash, and run to a multi-purpose room to eat.
Read all of the 2012 Vanity Fair article by William Langwiesche.