Back when I joined ...


I recently found an old diary of mine. It encompasses more than a year, pages full of codes for repetitive stuff that I did all the time. And kind of miss doing.

The last day in the diary isn't on the last page, by far. It reads
8:50 - 12:00 DB, Ankunft in der Kaserne,
It was the day I left for military service (DB = Deutsch Bahn, railway / Ankunft in der Kaserne = arrival at the barracks). My young days had ended abruptly.

I'm sure I forgot most of the first weeks and months in the Luftwaffe, but I didn't forget the first day. I arrived among the first six recruits that day, and the consequence was we were told to go into a room where three bunk beds were standing. Then we had to wait, for hours. The basic training was - like just about every other education or training I ever had - a thorough disappointment. We learned almost nothing, but this was already more than some could digest. 

One draftee was 2.06 metres tall and angry he hadn't told his draft official that he's 2.10 m, for then he wouldn't have been drafted away from girlfriend, own apartment and full time job. The recruitment office had no means to measure past 2 metres length, he could have fooled them.
He got a sweat suit and running shoes within days, and nothing else for the first three weeks or so. His supersized clothes and boots were simply not available in the barracks themselves. He also got a "Null Kilogramm Schein" (zero kilogram certificate) from the medical doctor - this excepted him from carrying anything but his clothes due to his joints and back issues. He still was kind enough to carry helmet and rifle on occasion - even though nobody could order him to do so. (Others got 10 kg Scheine.) Nobody could figure out what the Bundeswehr wanted from him. Eventually, he ended up as sauna boy; handing out towels and taking them back. Supposedly this was an all-essential job, for without such a sauna boy who kept watch the sauna supposedly would become filthy. Go figure, it was used almost exclusively by officers and senior NCOs.

There were plenty such anecdotes, and they fed my disgust for bureaucracies more than any theoretical education in economics ever did.

The most useful skill that I learned in those first months in uniform was how to fall asleep in an instant. We were kept busy artificially all the time, and the permanent stress made us take naps at every opportunity. When the order came to "self-study" in our dormitory, we all calmly went to the six-stool table there, sat down, crossed arms on the table, dropped our head and fell asleep in no time.

Still, with all that stress the Bundeswehr did not in any course or at any time train me the way all other trainings and educations went; usually it's too little learning for my taste, too much exercising for my taste. The Bundeswehr only met the "too little learning" part. I'm not joking; I did 30 push-ups in a minute every day during the months before I joined the Bundeswehr, at the end of basic training I was barely able to do 20 push-ups and when I left the service I was down to 15.

The Bundeswehr got considerably worse in the years since I left it, so I was told. Repeatedly.



  1. Yeah; I experienced similiar things in the austrian Bundesheer and I joined a couple years before things got really bad with the 6 month draft a decade ago. During basic training I had 1 guy who wasn't allowed to kneel (bad knees) and 2 guys who weren't allowed to carry more than the vest, helmet and rifle (~10kg Schein) in my squad alone. And the support arms were even worse off. My younger brother (6 month draft with 6 week basic) told me that they only spent 2 days on shooting during basic (he did karate and competitive shooting like I did and was very fit) and that he was sent to do some simple stuff in excel for one of the officers after basic. Why you would need draftees for stuff like this is beyond me.

    Even at the end of basic infantry training (which wasn't all that bad) we had guys who struggled on the obstacle course with the relativle light austrian combat gear (no money for plate carriers etc) or who couldn't do 5 proper pull ups. And we started most days with one hour of physical training. After that was over we did a lot more training on our own and finally developed good cameraderie. But my first 5 months in the military were a huge dissapointment and I was surprised how little got done in an organization that controlled our daily lifes from 6-22 most days of the week.
    Weird thing is: towards the end of my 1 year military service we had a small friendly competition (CISM pentathlon minus the swimming part) with dutch, german and american(reserve) soldiers after a basic mountaineering course (I served in the jäger infantry in tyrol) and the only guys that beat us were the guys from the Bundeswehr :D And no, we did not practice for that competition beforehand ;)

  2. Oh, btw: I finally made my way through your list of recommended books (took me 1 1/2 years :D ) and I would be curious if you could write a short overview on german language literature on warfare.

    1. LOL, that's a way too big topic.

      It started with de Saxe AFAIK, advanced with few notable works until after CvC, had a gazillion titles published in the 1870-1939 timeframe, another burst in the 50's and then almost nothing unless we count the anti-war analysis works that criticised nuclear strategy, NATO preparedness against 30k Soviet tanks and such.
      Oh yeah, and there was a lot of popular writing crap for (borderline) neonazis and weapons huggers in the post-WW2 time.

      A bunch of good publications actually came from Austria quite recently, the "Truppendienst Taschenbuch" series. I'm still waiting for Eloka part II. I found no other book comparable to part I. There's the EW 101, 102, 103 and 104 series, but it's terribly expensive.

    2. Thanks, that helps me quite a bit. I have read the books from Middeldorf and Uhle-Wettler and Kriegsnah ausbilden. If I understand you right you don't know of any important post-WW2 works in german that go beyond that? Are there any Bundeswehr regulations that are worthwile to get?
      And thanks about your thumps up on the Truppendienst-books! I have some of them but only looked through the 3 on squads and platoons and not considered them a priority for me to read.

      PS: Have you checked if university libraries carry the EW 10x books? The university vienna has the ebook versions and university students can usually download a pdf through the university network. If you know any university students you might be able to get your hands on them very easily.

    3. Middeldorff wrote post-war, but only 2 of his 3 books are worthwhile imo.

      The HDv that I saw (= dozens) were unimpressive, and too focused on specific scenarios. Such field manuals also tend to dictate what's right, they don't provide much reasoning, especially no considerations of what might be right to do if circumstances were different.

      You should probably read the red booklet that combines Brossolet and Spannocchi. You will know Spannocchi's ideas, but Brossolet's are interesting as well.

      The Truppendienst books on battalion HQ, mortars and Eloka were the best ones of the series imo, the infantry books don't add anything to the German or Austrian infantry HDv editions that I know.

      There's a book on very, very basic tactics by some Swissman Paul Ritschard which may be useful for beginners. Also of Swiss origin is this http://tinyurl.com/y98uwyvw by Major von Dach, who's infamous for another work.

      People affiliated with universities have limited access to what professional journals etc they may download for free - it depends on what they study. Psychology students don't get to download engineering journals etc. I doubt I'll find anyone who has legal access to that kind of ebooks, albeit I know someone who has an account to scientific library resources in general.

      BTW, at the very least EW 102 should still exist as a pirated version somewhere in the internet.

    4. https://www.scribd.com/document/357863246/Einfuhrung-in-Die-Taktik-Paul-Ritschard-1990

    5. Man, thanks again :)

      While I studied at the TU Wien I managed to get a library card for the Uni Wien without a problem and never ran into any problems with restricted access. But: Wien ist anders ;)

      [maybe edit this out]
      A lot of US textbooks can be pirated from sites like libgen[dot]pw and there are (mostly russian) search engines like gen[dot]lib[dot]rus[dot]ec

  3. You were born in west germany, right? Do you think they had a better training regimen during the cold war?

    1. The WP threat and thus the seriousness was lost after '90. It was only regained once men died in Afghanistan, and only so in the army.

      The last soldiers who remembered WW2 retired in the 80's, and those who had received training by vets had arrived in office jobs.

      Shortly thereafter, stupid wars of occupation became the dominant mission for the army, and field manuals were lengthened with chapters on "peacekeeping" stuff.

      The Cold war-era training wasn't superior in all aspects, though. The German army marksmanship training of the 1980's was stuck in the 1920's. Static positions for easy safety only.
      The laser simulation instead of mere blanks was only introduced years after the Cold War, and is widely credited to be a huge improvement.