Military Preparation p2 : Long hair lock by thadeusz
This is part two of a story: it is thus advisable to read part 1 first !
I went back to school, keeping the haircut the Corporal Barber had given me on my last day. This was not very fashionable and my school mates made lots of jokes about it, so I stopped going out with them: they were so childish compared to my legionnaire friends. Having nothing else to do, I studied very hard and was accepted for the next year in a special school preparing boys and girls to the entrance exams of the French "Great School".
I had also decided that I wanted to lead a military life and to go back to the Legion, but as the Colonel had suggested, as an officer if I could. So in order to get ready I asked my parents to let me join the reserves. My mother did not like it at first, but both my parents realized that one year later I would be 18 and thus do it anyway, so they gave me the required permission. One of their motivations was the change they observed in me after my "stint" in the Legion.
I applied at the end of September to a Legion regiment close to my home in order to lose as little possible time going there and coming back. I knew that the procedure would take lots of time: the regiment reserve company had first to accept me, I would then be called for a medical visit and finally, if all was fine on that side of the world, the complete file would be sent to Paris for a Security Inspection. It was only after that that I would be accepted. This meant that I would probably not have the possibility to attend the Initial Military Reserve Training before July ! I did not bother since I had decided that I would now study, and study very seriously.
I was thus really surprised when I received a positive answer about one month later. The letter I received contained also a notification to come the next Saturday to the regiment "to sign my contract and receive my uniform". I phoned the regiment to be sure that there was no mistake, but they confirmed this "kind invitation". The next Saturday, I went to the regiment and did what they required. The Captain of the reserve unit explained me what had happened: since I had mentioned my 7 weeks stay with the Recruits in my motivation letter, they had contacted my former Colonel. He had recommended that they accepted me. This enabled them to use my former medical file and they had accepted me immediately on the basis of my Colonel’s report and former medical visit and security check. I was thus a new legion reservist, provided with a legionnaire uniform (my second legion uniform) and with a green beret. I was also told that I better get used to my new boots since the Initial Training would occur during the Christmas holiday, and that I would have to spend these holidays in the Legion.
When the Initial Training session was due to start, I first went to my barber and got my usual very short haircut. I then went to my new regiment with my uniform in a big bag. I had also taken the boots I had used during my previous stay at the Legion: they were already adapted to my feet ! We were 19 new reservists and rapidly became friends. The Lieutenant who would lead our group during this training session explained us how to wear our uniform and how to make our bed, all things I already knew. But I kept quiet about this. The lieutenant also told us that since we were new reservists, meaning reservists who had not previously served in the Legion, we had to wear our green beret since we were not allowed to wear the White Kepi reserved for "real Legionnaires". Once again, I kept quiet.
The Initial Training lasted 2 full weeks. The rudiments of a legionnaire behavior were rapidly taught to the new reservists. There was a strong emphasis on the way we should later patrol in the streets and stand guard when trying to protect civilians against terrorists. Teaching French to people speaking different languages was not necessary, since we were all French, and with that part of the education to legionnaire life gone, part of the brotherhood I had known during my 7 weeks got lost. Once again, I remained silent and kept my comments for myself. Finally, the ironing exercises of the numerous folds of our uniform appeared less important for us, new reservists. It was for me a tremendous difference between my first 7 weeks with real legionnaires.
There was a ceremony on the last day of this Initial Training Session. This was intended to mark formally our entrance in the reserve duty: after that day, we could be called to help active duty legionnaires, theoretically, for any activity. In fact we knew very well that we would spend most of our time on patrols and guard duty. But that would be done in uniform and from the barracks, and that was what we were searching: a little bit of adventure and some military brotherhood.
There was also something else occurring during this ceremony. The Captain commanding the Reserve Unit of our regiment would read out aloud the marks each of us obtained. I hoped to have very good marks, knowing that this would be taken into account for my admission into an officer school. I was convinced I would be first of the lot: everything we learned was something I had learned during my previous 7 weeks. I was thus sadly surprised when I realized that my name was not called among the best ones. Finally, all of the others had been called, except me. The Captain turned then towards me and simply said:
"Legionnaire Louvois, you could not be called among the others since you have done ‘the farm’ and the White Kepi march as if you were an active duty soldier. I don’t want to see you with a beret today. Where is your White Kepi ?"
"Captain, I knew that reservists are not allowed to wear a White kepi, so I left mine home."
"In that case, I give you another one and I order you to put it on IMMEDIATELY."
I proudly did as I was told while all my comrades were looking at me with envy.
The Captain continued:
"Your behavior during this session was excellent, but it cannot be compared to that of new reservists. I will thus simply join a very positive report to your Colonel’s report". He then turned to the whole group, showing a table full of drinks and concluded as follows:
"Now new reservists, DISMISS and have a good drink."
I spent excellent days with my reserve company, patrolling and standing guard. This was a form of relief for active duty legionnaires. I had to spend less time in the reserves after I got my high school diploma, because I went to my new school and there we had to work hard and study nearly day and night.
I had chosen that school because it was a school organized by the Army. The teachers and the courses were excellent and prepared well to the entrance exams. There was a lot to learn, new attitudes to acquire but we were helped by a strict discipline. But it was still a civilian school and even if we wore uniforms, even if the supervisors were NCOs and our supervisors were officers, it was not the real military.
In the beginning, I was the only one to keep a real legionnaire haircut. But I found a girl there, a wonderful girl, named Louise. We rapidly fell in love and she is another reason for my reduced number of sessions in the reserves: we needed time together. Louise told me that she did not like my haircut, although she knew I wanted to join the military. She simply said:
"With this haircut, you look like a convict. Just observe our commanding officer. He has longer hair, not very long but simply slightly long and much nicer."
I did what she wanted and let my hair grow, not very much but enough to avoid looking like a new recruit. After some hesitations, I chose (with Louise) a haircut inspired from an Ivy League one, but with small changes: very short back and sides but only slightly short on the top of the head. On the forehead, like most of my school mates, I had a long lock of hair. Louise liked to play with it. This made the barber more expensive and the hairbrushing in the morning much longer ! But I was in love with Louise.
I spent several reserve periods with my unit in order to respect the minimum of 30 days each year. We went patrolling and we stood guard in front of delicate places like stations, churches, synagogues, etc. We also had some parades and during these parades I wore proudly my White Kepi, but on top of a head provided with not too long hair, in order to satisfy my commanding officer, but also not too short hair in order to satisfy Louise.
We took several entrance exams. Louise failed but I was accepted. She decided to repeat her preparation year, convinced that she would be accepted the next year. I had followed the advice of my maths teacher. He told me convincingly:
"You are too good in maths, physics and chemistry to become only an officer. You should go to an engineer school."
"But I want to serve in the Army."
"Well, there is a school where you will be trained as officer and as engineer. Take that exam and you will like it."
This is what I did, and this is the school where I was accepted. Louise and I spent the Summer holiday together and at the end of August I started my formal Army basic training. I spent one month in a training camp, with a new Army uniform but no special haircut: I was a future officer and my haircut was adapted to that future position. After that, I spent two months in the French Officer School, the French equivalent of West Point, to learn how to behave as officer. I learned the rules and also I trained to give orders, not only to obey them.
After these two months we received a nice blue uniform, our School uniform, with shoulder pads with a nice golden stripe, my first officer stripe. There was indeed a ceremony during which we were all promoted from Private to Officer Cadet. There was of course an inspiring speech by our commanding officer.
After that we were ordered to go as quickly as possible to the regiment we had chosen for our "zero year" on-site field training. The idea was to go there and serve as Officer cadet, thus learning how to behave with our future soldiers.
I had asked to be sent to a para regiment and I had obviously chosen the only Legion para regiment, the famous 2 REP.
I arrived two days later day in Calvi, with the little car my parents had given me for my success at the entrance exam. It was begin December. I went to the famous Camp Raffalli where I had orders to report directly to the Colonel. When I entered the Colonel’s office, there was another officer, a Lieutenant, waiting for me. The Colonel welcomed me with these words:
"Officer Cadet Louvois, be welcome in this regiment. Here is Lieutenant Mercier who will be your mentor during your on-site field training. I have your file on my desk but we would like to have some more details. Tell us why you chose this regiment, with his very strict discipline, for your first on-site field training."
"Colonel, I chose this regiment because I hope to gain my para wings during my on-site field training."
"Nothing more, Officer Cadet ?"
"Well Colonel, I was also part of a legion reserve unit. This was part of my reasons to choose 2 REP."
"I see in your file that you spent 7 weeks with real Recruits, during an especially extended Military Preparation and that you earned there your White Kepi with the others. Did you bring it with you here ?"
"Yes, Colonel, it is a sort of totem, a sort of teddy bear for me". I could not continue, the Colonel interrupted me and went on:
"Good Officer Cadet. Lieutenant Mercier will show you your quarters and explain you the rules. DISMISS."
The Lieutenant kindly told me to follow him with my bags: I had one suitcase and one soldier’s bag which I had received with my Officer Cadet uniform. The lieutenant lead me to one of the buildings of the camp and said:
"These are the rooms for the legionnaires, five soldiers in a room. You will have an individual room on the other side, like the Master-Caporals."
He lead me to one of these rooms and showed me the bed and on it a legionnaire uniform.
He then told me:
"Take off all your clothes, undies included, and put on this legionnaire uniform."
I did not know what he had in mind, but I did as ordered. I felt nearly naked without my Officer Candidate uniform, and especially without my new stripes and epaulettes.
As soon as I was done, the Lieutenant changed his way of speaking: he was no longer the seasoned officer speaking to an Officer Cadet, but a Lieutenant giving orders to a young legionnaire.
"From now on, and until decided otherwise by the Colonel, your name is Joseph Lebon. Look at your name-tag."
It is at this moment that I noticed that a name-tag had been affixed on my legionnaire uniform and that it said: "J. LEBON"
The Lieutenant continued:
"You really earned your White Kepi, so you are a legionnaire, but a ‘young legionnaire’, which means that you are new in the trade." And in a booming voice he continued :
"Put all your Officer Cadet uniforms and all your belongings in your bags, you won’t need them. This includes your identity papers, your car keys your watch and your phone. You are not allowed to have or drive a car. You are not allowed to communicate with the outside world before the end of para training."
"Lieutenant, can I at least warn my parents that I arrived safely ?"
"NO. I will warn them myself. And in any case, a legionnaire does not question an order. So, OBEY QUICKLY, LEBON."
I gave him all he wanted, but a wild idea came across my mind: "Who is going to warn my dear Louise ?" and surreptitiously I hid my cell phone in one of the pockets of my uniform. But except for that, I did exactly as ordered, rather bewildered, and I heard the Lieutenant continue:
"You will join the new legionnaires who just arrived. They are waiting for some others who will arrive next week. Your rank is ‘simple legionnaire’. You will start your on-site field training as a young legionnaire. You will obey orders and do chores as your comrades must do. You are subject to exactly the same disciplinary rules, so you will be punished, if needed, as they are punished. You will keep the uniform you wear now as long as the Colonel considers that it is needed to have you really disciplined: he does not consider that Officer Cadets coming from engineer schools can become real officers. UNDERSTOOD ?"
"YES, Lieutenant", automatically I had taken the position of attention.
The Lieutenant went on:
"You can of course wear the White Kepi you earned during your first stay in the Legion, but your Matricule number has been adapted in the same way as it is adapted for each legionnaire who comes back after a period of legal absence: you arrive here three years after leaving, so you are now ‘Legionnaire Lebon, Matricule 208.312. I have also added all the periods you have served and you have presently 4 month 3 weeks of service, remember that. You know that you must say it regularly. Also, like your comrades you will be in uniform 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. UNDERSTOOD ?"
"YES, Lieutenant" was my answer, still in the position of attention.
"As long as the para training is not finished, you are confined to barracks with your comrades. You are not allowed to communicate with the outside world before getting your wings. UNDERSTOOD ?"
"I must warn you, if you do not behave perfectly, you will remain a simple legionnaire until the end of your on-site field training. In this case, the Colonel is going to fail you. He does not like Officer Cadets coming here for an easy ‘on-the-job-training’. From now on, follow the orders like the brave legionnaire you have proven you can be. You are not to tell to anybody that you ever were an Officer Cadet . Did you understand all that, Legionnaire and ex-Officer cadet?"
Lieutenant Mercier took then a little piece of plastic from his pocket and gave it to me.
"At ease legionnaire. This is your Military Identity Card, legionnaire LEBON. We used the same picture as three years ago, but your Matricule number has been adapted. Now take your Legion bags and follow me. You must go to the barber in order to look like your Identity picture."
My leader locked the door of the little room which he said would be assigned to me, put the key in his pocket and took me further on my legion trip. Following his orders, I had put my beret on my head and placed my White Kepi in the bag I was now carrying.
I did not like the idea of having my hair cut: the length I had agreed upon with Louise made it more than acceptable for an Officer Cadet, and also for my girlfriend. But the Lieutenant did not like that. When we arrived at the barber, the Lieutenant told me to sit in a chair and explained to the barber:
"This young legionnaire has just arrived for the para training, but he let his hair grow much too long. Correct this by giving him an induction cut."
The barber was a Master Sergeant and as such felt that he could react to Lieutenant Mercier’s order:
"Legionnaire Lebon, how much time of service do you have ?"
"4 months and 3 weeks, Sergeant."
On this basis, the barber convinced the Lieutenant that it would not be normal to give me an induction cut. He caped me and I remained silent while the Sergeant suggested:
"Lieutenant, this guy has already a short Ivy League cut, let me give him a crew cut."
"Fine with me," said the Lieutenant, "but then a very short one: 1 millimeter on the sides and back, and two millimeter on the top, with a neat line between top and side."
The barber started to work. He worked seriously and slowly, without any brutality. There was no mirror near the seat so that I could not see anything before the barber was done, I could nevertheless feel the blades and realize that the Sergeant was going first on the sides of my head, cleaning everything up to a line above the ears. He used for that a small guard. He pushed and pulled and turned my head in a way that reminded me, in less brutal, my first legion haircut. The Sergeant barber later changed guard and let his clippers reduce to nothing the long lock of hair on my forehead which Louise liked so much. He then attacked the rest of the top of my head and reduced the hair there to short bits of hair. When he was done, he uncaped me and I immediately placed my right hand on my head to evaluate the damage. The sides were nearly completely free of hair: there remained there only stubbles. On the top of my head I could feel very short hair standing erect. I had received a legion haircut but, contrarily to what the Lieutenant wanted, thanks to the Sergeant barber, I still had some hair on my head: Louise would have hated a real induction cut.
The Lieutenant told me to put my beret on my head, salute and thank the barber, adding these fine words:
"You will pay for this haircut, as you will pay for your uniform: all that will be deducted from your first pay. Now take your bags and follow me."
Lieutenant Mercier lead me now to a building I had not visited before and he told me that this was the building where the new legionnaires, training as paratroopers, were housed. He showed me a big room with 12 bunks and told me:
"Lebon, there are 11 young legionnaires occupying temporarily this room. You will be the 12th one until your training is completed and you are sent to a normal legionnaire room." He showed a bed and added: "This will be your bed and there is your cupboard. You know the rules, so place all your stuff in the cupboard IN PERFECT LEGION ORDER" (these last words were shouted) "get your bed ready, and wait for your comrades at the foot of your bed, standing at ease."
With these words, Lieutenant Mercier left and left the new legionnaire Lebon, feeling very bad, alone in his new room.
I rapidly placed my kit in my cupboard, remembering the strict rules I had learned during my 7 weeks with the recruit and I gave a short phone call to Louise. I then hid my phone between my tee shirts. I rapidly and discretely went to the bathroom near my room: I was curious. There, finally, I could see my image in a mirror. I did no longer look like the Officer Cadet I was when I entered the Camp, on the contrary I was now looking like any other young legionnaire.
After that, as I had been told, I took the position "at ease" at the foot of my bed and I waited.
I did not have to wait long, a group of legionnaires entered the room, exhausted. One of them asked me:
"Are you the last one for this room ? My name is Tom Geras." there was another name on his name-tag, but he had volunteered his own, something I was not allowed to do.
"Yes, I am a young legionnaire, I will start the para training with you as soon as the last ones have arrived. My name is Joseph, Joseph Lebon." I did not say more: there is an unwritten rule in the Legion, you NEVER ask a legionnaire what is his real name unless he volunteers it, and you don’t ask him why he joined. This rule was respected and I did not have to find an explanation about my special situation. Tom continued:
"I have the bed next to yours, and we don’t have much space while in training. Let’s be friends."
I grabbed the hand he extended and said:
"You know Joseph, we must remain close together. Our Corporal is a newly promoted legionnaire and he behaves with us like a bitch. Beware Corporal Dos Santos."
He did not have time to explain further, the usual words were shouted by the legionnaire at the head of the first bed:
"ATTENTION all ! Corporal ! 12 legionnaires in this room, all present Corporal."
We all stood frozen like statues next to the foot of our bed. I noticed that my comrades were looking straight in front of them and not towards the door through which the "bitchy" Corporal was entering. I did as they did, but through the corner of my eye I saw a big legionnaire, with Corporal stripes, entering and starting to pass us in review. He stopped in front of me and I recognized my former friend Joao De Sousa. He had regained his real name and was now Corporal Juan De Santos. He looked at me and said:
"So, Lebon, you finally enlisted for real. I knew there was a new legionnaire here, but I did not expect him to be the boy I had known before. Are you glad here, legionnaire Lebon ?"
"YES, Corporal" was my answer, still in the position of attention and looking far, straight towards the horizon.
"Lebon, we started instruction together. Don’t think that I will be easier on you than on the others. On the contrary, I’ll be more severe with you in order to help you become a perfect legionnaire."
The Corporal then shouted: "CUPBOARD INSPECTION. I am starting with you Lebon, you are the fresh meat."
None of us moved while the Corporal started to search through my clothes. He rapidly found something: my cell phone. He took it and turned towards me, asking with a booming voice:
"Lebon, what is this ?"
"Corporal, it is my cell phone."
"Have you been informed that you are not allowed to communicate before you get your wings ?"
"Yes, Corporal, but I wanted to warn my parents."
The Corporal let my cell phone fall on the concrete floor, and my phone broke. To make sure that it was broken, the Corporal put smashed it with his rangers while saying:
"Here there are no soldiers who think or want something, there are only obedient legionnaires. In order to help you becoming better, I will ask the Sergeant to give you 8 days in the brig. Now, you will first give me a Croatian bridge during 30 minutes while chanting ‘Le Boudin’, with your comrades. START NOW."
I took the required position and started to sing with the others, but in myself I was anxious: what would the Colonel say about this event ?
I spent the rest of the day training on the Obstacle Course with my comrades. Just after the evening roll call, the Sergeant leading the unit in which I was, told me to go to the Colonel the next morning, immediately after the morning roll call. I spent a very bad night and my new friend, Tom, tried to comfort me saying:
"You will just have 8 days in the brig. The important point is that when we will all have our wings we will all be allowed to go out: then you will be able to phone. But be careful, don’t buy a new cell phone without asking first for the Captain’s authorization, otherwise you could be back in the brig more rapidly than you think."
In fact I was anxious for my field training evaluation but I could not say so.
The next morning I went to the Colonel’s office, wearing my "going out" uniform and my White Kepi. I introduced myself as instructed:
"Legionnaire Lebon, Matricule 208.312, 4 months and 3 weeks of service, para training company. At your command Colonel," and I remained there in the position of attention.
"Lebon, you kept your cell phone knowing that it was strictly forbidden. Correct ?"
"Well, there is only one possible punishment: 8 days in the brig, starting immediately. UNDERSTOOD?"
"Legionnaire Lebon, I am really disappointed. I warn you, should I have to punish you again in this way, I would keep you as simple Legionnaire until the end of your on-site field training and I would fail you for your Officer School. This will be your second and last chance. DISMISS."
The whole thing had not lasted more than 5 minutes. I was now what legionnaires call "a banana tree", meaning that I had done a "banana", that I did not behave according to the rules and deserved to be punish.
I went back to our room where Corporal Dos Santos was waiting for me. He told me with a sadistic look to change into chore uniform, without name-tag, belt or beret. He then lead me to the brig where the brig Sergeant completed my "prisoner uniform" with an orange vest and a jungle hat. He the told me to sit on a small stool for my prisoner haircut. Another prisoner did the job and was not kind at all, rather brutal. He used clippers without guard and gave me first an induction cut, which reduced my hair to stubbles. He then came back with smaller clippers and took great care "to clean every little corner". He pushed and turned my head in all possible directions in order to clean everything around my ears and even my neck. He passed several times on the top of my head and when he was done, which was much less comfortable than the previous haircut, I was left with a baldy.
The sergeant locked me up in a small isolation cell for the rest of the day and for my first night. After that, I could spend my nights and my meals with the other punished legionnaires. Most of the time we were doing menial tasks, like picking all cigarette butts, and there were many, or cleaning the alleys. While I was in the brig, Karl, another legionnaire of my group joined me: he was sent to the brig for "refusing to obey orders". In fact Karl had declined to iron a second time his green shirt with many folds, which the Corporal considered as not properly ironed. He had also received a nice induction cut.
Karl was furious: the Colonel had warned him that if the other legionnaires expected for the para training arrived while he was in the brig, the training would start without him. This meant that he would have to wait another month, doing nothing special, before he could start his para training and receive the extra pay reserved for paras. This was a lesson for me: the Colonel could really delay any soldier in his Camp.
When my time was up and I had done my 8 days, I came back to the group. Tom was still there. He looked at my haircut and laughed because, according to him, it was a really severe induction cut. He also told me that the other legionnaires had been delayed and that I was still in time. We spent our days running or doing exercises on the obstacle course, but most of the time we were simply waiting in the company bar or doing chores.
Finally the other young legionnaires arrived and occupied another 12 beds room next to ours. In the mean time, Karl had been released from the brig. We did lots of chores together, but we mostly learned to jump from a plane (with a chute) carrying all our kit, and be ready to fight as soon as we landed. This learning period was interrupted by Christmas: during a week we did not learn to jump, not because we deserved a rest but because our chiefs wanted a rest ! We had also to prepare the great legionnaire feast: Christmas eve.
Attendance to the Christmas eve celebration was compulsory for all the members of the regiment, legionnaires, NCOs and officers. We put our best "going out" uniform and went to the mess hall with our White Kepi. We left our Kepi on a table placed at the entrance of the hall and we had an exceptionally good meal. After the meal, the real feast started.
This night, it was normal to make fun of the officers and some older legionnaires, but only legionnaire 1Class or higher ranking, did not hesitate to do so. It was also customary for the Colonel to give personally a present to each legionnaire of his regiment. The Colonel gave me a Swiss knife with my name, Joseph Lebon, engraved in it. I still have it. When he gave me my present, the Colonel simply said:
"So Legionnaire Lebon, do you like it now being a legionnaire ? I heard that you behave well."
These words were really great for me and I felt good. I was now fully "simple Legionnaire Joseph Lebon" and I did my best to behave perfectly. It was not easy: the Corporal had decided that I was, in a way, his punching ball. He gave me more chores than to the others, he inspected me nearly every day and when there was the smallest flaw in my attitude, my kit or anything else, he punished me making me do push-ups or worse, a Croatian bridge. He knew that this last form of punishment brought back bad memories from my Military Preparation days. The Corporal also sent me three times on guard 24 duty, which was abnormally frequent. Each time he inspected in great details my uniform and more especially my green shirt with many folds. He even measured the size of the folds up to the millimeter. But my shirt was always perfectly ironed. In fact, the flaws the Corporal detected were minimal according to my friend Tom who was convinced that the Corporal had a personal hatred for me. It is also a fact that these flaws tended to disappear and that there were less opportunities for the Corporal to punish me, so he finally stopped.
We had our last training jump, our test jump, at night and with all our kit. It was difficult, but also exhilarating, nearly intoxicating, like all the jumps we had had. More intoxicating than the amount of beer we could afford with our pay.
The next morning, we put on our best uniform and formed on the main square of the Camp. The Colonel approached and told us that he was now going to call the names of those who had obtained their wings. I hoped to be the first of the group, although I knew that it was not possible because of my 8 days in the brig. The Colonel called a first name, this legionnaire made three steps forward and received his wings and fourragere from the hands of the Colonel himself, who took them from a red cushion held by the Corporal. This best legionnaire was immediately promoted to Legionnaire 1st Class.
The Colonel called then all the other names of our group, and the Sergeant and Lieutenant hurried from one to another in order to give them their wings and fourragère. The wings and fourragere were still on the cushion held by the Corporal.
Finally, last but not least, he called my name. I thus knew that I was now a legionnaire and a paratrooper. But the Colonel added something:
"Legionnaire Lebon, step forward"
I stepped forward, not understanding why this was happening.
Corporal Dos Santos, my former friend Joao, came forward with the same cushion. On it were my wings and fourragere. There was also a black Officer Kepi and Officer Candidate shoulder boards. The Colonel took them and gave them to me, adding my wings and fourragère.
All that took place in a absolute silence. The Colonel ordered me then to do an about face and as soon as I was facing the legionnaires, my comrades, he ordered:
"All men, salute Officer Candidate Jacques Louvois."
And all the men of my group, my comrades, and the Corporal and the Sergeant saluted me. I automatically replied.
The Colonel explained then this strange transformation to the new paras:
"Officer Candidate Louvois earned his White Kepi, like you, after the farm and the White Kepi March, which he did with Corporal Dos Santos. His legion name was Joseph Lebon. Later his Colonel sent him back to school. He worked hard and has been admitted in an officer school under his real name."
He then told my former comrades that they now could go out to the city.
The Colonel congratulated me and said:
"I leave you with your former friend. He knew all about your special situation from the beginning. I had your former Colonel’s report. I thus instructed Corporal Dos Santos to test you. You proved to be made of the metal needed to make Legion officers." He then looked at my haircut and added "Try to have longer hair for next time, an induction cut is not suited for an officer. By the way, you have my permission to buy a cheap cell phone in town."
I suggested to the Corporal that we should go together to town and have a drink together but the Corporal replied:
"Is it an order, Lieutenant ?"
"Certainly not, it is an invitation."
"In that case, and with all due respect, I don’t think that it would be correct for a Corporal to go and drink with an Officer. Permission to go, Lieutenant ?"
The Corporal saluted me, I replied, but I had realized that as of now, I was no longer a boy, nor a teenager, but a man or more precisely a lonely Officer.