GruenauIt definitely looks exciting when the Jamaican longlegs Usain Bolt flies over the track of the Berlin Olympic Stadium, winning the 200-metre finals by 50 metres over the entire competition.

The new superstar from Jamaica bettered the world record over the half-round (set by himself at the Olympic Games in Peking in 2008) by 0.11 seconds. Now, in some other disciplines, 0.11 seconds is certainly not much. But for sprinters, it means a world of difference.

A week earlier, Bolt had won the 100 metres, beating his great rival Tyson Gay from the USA. There, too, he bettered the world record by 0.11 seconds. Mind you, we are talking a distance where it was generally assumed that the limit had already been reached. The Jamaican finished after 9.58 seconds, rival Gay took 9.71 seconds, which meant 0.02 seconds slower than the former world record.

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… is what I had taken for granted after finishing my studies and then being transferred back to my branch of service. We all know the proverb: “Do not count the chicken before they hatch”. The same happened to me. The official German Armed Forces career sequence would be: officer training – studying in Hamburg or Munich – acting platoon leader in one or two cases – company operations officer – company commander.

According to plan, I should therefore have been acting platoon leader during the remaining 12 months of my military service. However, my first day on duty in Badensia taught me better. Instead of 50 “highly motivated” soldiers, I found the key to an office door, a desk and a personal computer. My company commander welcomed me with the words: “I am glad to meet you. You will be my new company operations officer”.

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I have spent almost seven years with the German Armed Forces, and during this time, I was always surrounded by conscript soldiers. In 2002, I had my own basic training, along with approximately 160 conscript soldiers. In 2003, I led a group, again during their basic training, of exclusively conscript soldiers. I made ensign in 2004, acting auxiliary platoon leader. And again my customers were exclusively conscript soldiers.

I led guardsmen whose sole duty was sentry-watch. They were all long-term sick, or not capable of field service, or soon-to-be retirees or those who during their term of duty had not really stuck out by brilliance. In 2005, I led my own platoon with 46 soldiers. I am sure you already guessed: again almost all of them were conscript soldiers.

During this time, I really got to know what the conscript system is like for the common soldier. For the outside world and according to the propaganda by the Ministry of Defense, the emphasis is always on how the conscript system is a fundamental part of the entire system. They talk of the citizen in uniform. Allegedly, the conscript system is formative and essential for the common link between the army and the citizens.

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Alexander Große
Thursday March 26th, 2009

Experiences of a Temporary Career Soldier #1 – Start

As some other authors of this blog might know, I am myself a temporary career soldier at the German armed forces and have been with the army since July, 2002. After quite a few seminars, force practicals and leadership postings, I now know the German armed forces quite well.

Over the last six years, the German armed forces have undergone a change the (sad) culminating point of which – for the time being – has been the current report of the armed forces commissioner in front of parliament this week. On the whole, what is wrong with the German armed forces are basic issues. In my future blog articles, I will endeavour to look behind the scenes and outline the advantages and disadvantages of a conscript army from the viewpoint of someone who is directly concerned.
Initially, I will just list the pros and cons of our conscript system. Later on, I will get to other sectors and procedures within the German armed forces.

Does the conscript system still give anything positive to the soldiers? Does it have any advantages for the German forces when involved in active combat? Where does the army go and why do the political powers continue to demand the conscript system? These are all questions that I wish to shed light upon. For a change, I want to give another than the official view. Partly, I will manage to objectively base my arguments on reasoning. Partly, however, my arguments will remain subjective, reflecting the personal opinion of an officer in the armed forces.

Maybe this series will allow you to look behind the scenes, because someone is giving you a little insight into what goes on in the armed forces

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