Roland Dürre
Wednesday January 9th, 2019

“Business Theatre“ (Entrepreneur’s Diary #128)

On this picture, the person in uniform does not look happy at all.

I spent 18 months serving the country (in the army) and in these 18 months, I learned to drink and chill. To be sure, I also learned how to survive in a sick system.

However, these 18 months also showed me how enterprises should not be yet how they mostly are (perhaps because enterprises often follow army patterns when it comes to their organisation).

They drafted me on April, 1st, 1970 and assigned me to the air force at Lagerlechfeld. After a stop at Landsberg, my army career as “Flyer Dürre” started in Ulm on April, 5th. I ended up in a battalion that had its small barracks area at the Lower Kuhberg not far from the Centre of Ulm. The barracks had been named after the war-hero Boelcke (see Militär in Ulm).  It was an old barracks venue, some people actually believed they could still see the (removed) swastika over the entrance.

The barracks I landed in after Landsberg belonged to the training regiment of the air force. The air force was one of the three weapons categories they had in the German Armed Forces: they also had the navy and the army.


 

The organization was quite simple:
The battalion (Bataillon) consisted of three companies and a few staff positions, for instance the medical group, the vehicle service group and the supply group. The battalion commander was only a major. That indicated that our battalion did not have much military significance.

Each company had three platoons. Each company had a company commander (usually a corporal) and the master sergeant, usually in the rank of sergeant major. He was the boss of the administration, including the typists’ office and he had the operative task of organizing order, which also consisted of drawing up the guard service list.

Each platoon had a platoon commander and three units. Usually, the platoon commanders were non-commissioned officers, once in a while an ensign was among them. Each unit had its unit commander who led ten learners for three months of basic training. The unit commanders were generally rank and file.

In summary, you can say that about a hundred recruits (about 3 x 3 x 11) were facing a small group of thirteen (9 + 3 + 1) coaches. Since, basically, recruits are difficult soldiers, the group had to stick together and was often a tight-knit community.

The business model was part of the compulsory service model and also very simple:

Whenever a new quarter year began (on the first of January, April, July and October), the German conscripts had to go under weapons in hordes – they were drafted. They were put into barracks distributed all over the country. Whenever a unit had problems with one of the recruits they had been assigned (regardless of the reason), then said recruit was sent to us in Ulm. That is how I, too, ended up in Ulm.

One of the problems was that the people who came a few days later were totally different from me. In July, most of the new recruits were successful high-school graduates who had been taken out of their units because of insubordinate behaviour or because they had other problems (such as drugs). At all other times, we always had many people with social disadvantages, often they had not finished any school education. Every three months, the mixture was totally new.

Our task at Ulm was to make proper soldiers of these problem cases. They were to be turned into air-force soldiers with simple tasks such as object protection (sentry) or in typing offices (today, you would probably call it back office).

During my first home visit in my parents’ sitting room.

Three of the recruits always had to be upgraded to become future commanders of each teaching regiment. I was selected because I was the only one in my regiment who had successfully graduated from high school (most of the others had not finished school at all). They needed someone who could actually teach (civics, military ranks and structures, learning to use a weapon). This is how, after no more than three months of basic training, I became unit commander with special tasks such as teaching the regimental recruits.

Our staff unit:
The staff units were responsible for the entire battalion.

  • Medical unit
    The medical unit consisted of two doctors and a few paramedics. Besides the general health care, they were responsible for giving out sick passes and, especially problematic, for giving someone the status of “unfit for service“. Many wanted this certificate, but the ratio allowed for each battalion was rather low. Besides, everyone who had been declared unfit by our doctors had to get a second opinion. And if one of the recruits actually managed to get both documents, he was the happiest person on earth or at least on the barracks.
  • Vehicle service group
    This unit consisted of the mechanics and the drivers who serviced our vehicles (regardless of being part of the air force, we had no airplanes). They also moved the vehicles. 
The fleet had a few lorries with which the recruits were driven to the manoeuver or to shooting practice, a few accompanying vehicles, a kitchen truck and a few limousines that were used by the driving service to take the officers where they needed to go. I think we also had a bus, but it mostly sat around. As far as I know, the entire drivers’ service of the German Armed Forces (including tanks) is now outsourced.
  • Supplies
    The supply department was responsible for everything the company needed: clothes, weapons, office hardware, toilet paper. After all, a hundred new soldiers had to get their uniforms every three months. Food, however, was only organized by the supply unit (planning, procurement). The cooking was done by civil servants, of which the German Armed Forces had plenty on top of their 500,000 soldiers.

And it all worked quite well. The teachers (Ausbilder) in the three companies mostly managed to keep all the recruits alive (regardless of recurring suicide attempts). They even made tame soldiers out of them in three months. As a general rule, we delivered the soldiers to their new companies, where they then patently served their time (usually fifteen or twelve months) as sentries or office service persons for German barracks.

We always were within the limit when it came to the number of recruits who were declared unfit. Once in a while, we even discovered a talent who later went to serve at the musical unit of the air force, and the same is true for some top players that we found for the company and battalion sports teams.

We also never starved. To be sure, the quality of the food that was served to the recruits was abominable, but we of the staff were luckier than that. That was definitely something the procurement units managed very well.

So what exactly was the task of the top management?
The company commanders had a fine life and were able to focus on the important things. They often changed (as I said, the battalion had a very good reputation). The only one who stayed long was the commander, the major. He waited for his retirement money.

We occasionally saw the decorated officers when big events were scheduled (solemn oaths, final manoeuvres, celebrations). Other than that, they were not much of a hindrance to us.
But the officers were also quite industrious and diligent. The company bosses and the battalion commander often had long meetings in the battalion mess. They worked late into the night. Once in a while, higher officers from the regiment and from higher up were also among the participants. Occasionally, even a general came, which always caused a disruption in the normal barracks procedures.

And our highest bosses were often on business trips. That was when they had to leave the barracks and the officer’s mess and travel to important Armed Forces or NATO meetings. In military life, international contacts are extremely important. And since they were leaders, they had to attend numerous courses, because, as we all know, leading is not at all easy. And when they wanted to relax, they sometimes flew. After all, the airplanes of the air force had to be moved around.

There are many questions our officers had to answer:

  • How can we make sure the world remains at peace?
    Again and again, they tried to find a good reason for the existence of the German Armed Forces (and, basically, to this day, they never found one).
  • What can we do to promote the reputation of the German Armed Forces?
    That was particularly difficult in our case. Among the teaching persons – especially if they were non-commissioned – we had quite a few tough fellows. Again and again, some of them made the local news because of misconduct. But mostly, they were only mentioned anonymously. However, since we were so important when it came to taming the recruits, we had nothing to fear. 
When the German Armed Forces had huge events, the community of Ulm also was very interested.
  • How can we create a feeling of corporate identity with other units?
    I remember a visit of the Bavarian Mountain Soldiers (Gebirgsjäger) from Mittenwald. It ended quite badly. What I mean is: “some of the equipment was lost, but luckily, with the exception of a few injuries, none of the soldiers became casualties.“
  • How can we become friendly with the other NATO states?
    To me, this seemed to be a particularly important task.
  • Once in a while, they had to approve our decisions.
    Mostly, they did that without reservations. However, it always took time, which caused emotional disputes among the parties concerned.
  • Special attention was given to the athletic activities in and beyond the air force.
    For instance, every company had a soccer team and a handball team. We specifically chose and kept recruits that were a precious gain to the teams. And whenever you have one of these athletic competitions, you have reason to celebrate.

I remember a soccer match against the US Army. At the time, no American was able to play soccer, so we won by 21:1. It was the highest win I ever actively witnessed in field soccer. In fact, it turned out that the biggest challenge was how to get them to score their one counter goal. Imagine all the things you do in the name of peace among nations and brothers in arms.


 

Why do I tell you these things? Because, with the German Armed Forces, I experienced a huge stage where big military theatre was playing. However, it was no more than what I would have expected from the German Armed Forces.

After my service time, when I continued studying and working at Siemens, I also experienced business theatre. It increased all the time and that really did surprise me.

These days, I am also perplexed when I see that many small enterprises are no longer there for the people (employees and customers). With all the business theatre, there is no time left for anything else.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
Only two pictures of me were taken during the entire time I served (April, 1, 1970 until September, 30, 1971). Both of them were taken during my first visit home; the first in front of the parents’ house and the second at the dinner table.

P.S.1
For more articles in my entrepreneur’s diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Roland Dürre
Sunday December 16th, 2012

Special Christmas Greetings

I received very special Christmas Greetings from my friend Klaus-Jürgen Grün. He and his team at PhilKoll live in the realm of philosophy.

😉 I am now downloading it to the global and eternal internet. As we all know, said internet will never forget. After all, I wish to share nice texts and preserve them for posterity.

In his award-winning article: “On the Basis of Morals“,  Arthur Schopenhauer tells us his definition of the festival of love:

“Well, taste is certainly an individual thing;

But for me personally, there is no better prayer than the closing lines of dramas in ancient India (and also those of English plays performed in front of the king).

They were:
May all living creatures remain free from pain.”

Somewhere else, he reminds us that the so-called religion of love

clearly is deficient in a huge and important aspect, in that it limits all its regulations and leaves the entire world of animals without rights.

It is different in moments of happiness

for the Brahmin or Buddhist. Instead of roaring a „Te Deum“, he goes to market and buys birds. Later, after having walked out of the city gates, he frees them.

No further comment!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
Arthur Schopenhauer
 (* February, 22nd,  1788 at Danzig; † September, 21st, 1860 at Frankfurt/Main) was a German philosopher, author and university teacher. On October, 18th, 1813, he earned his doctorial title from the University of Jena for his work: “Ueber die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde” – About the four-fold root of ample-reason-axiom.
Well, that is almost 200 years ago now!

P.S.1
I took both the picture and the signature from the central media archive Wikimedia Commons.

Roland Dürre
Monday December 10th, 2012

Christmas 2012

Since we have just had our Christmas Party, I keep seeing Santa Claus wherever I look and everything looks Christmassy in our country, here are some more “Christmassy“ impressions.

By accident, I got hold of this picture with the Christmassy motto “Mary and Joseph look upon it with joy”. Jens Gassner took the picture during a night-time train journey – of course he used his  “Smart phone”. And then he added the following text to the picture:

What you are looking at on this picture is not Jesus Christ in the manger, but an iPad. For the five-year-old boy, this is the first time he touches a tablet. After a minimum of instruction, he tries game after game and is apparently absolutely thrilled.

Mary and Joseph, the joyous spectators, are not married, either – the persons you see in this scene, as well as the photographer, accidentally met because they were sitting in the same train.

Greetings,
Jens

Now isn’t that already something like a modern Christmas Tale. Many thanks to Jens!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday December 1st, 2012

No Advent Calendar

In recent years, I always wrote a daily advent calendar article in the IF blog. It was a separate category.

This year, I will not write one. Some way or other, I simply no longer feel like it. Mind you, this feeling is partly because over the last few days, including today, I have been packed with advents calendars and special bargains for the first of advent like crazy.

No airline, no merchant, no provider of comical services or any other things was above sending me “great” bargains wrapped into an advent calendar or something similar.

I am fed up with advent nonsense. For me, there will not be an advent and neither will I make an advent calendar of my own.
Regardless, I wish you a nice advent!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
If you still feel you wish to have an advent calendar, all you have to do is open the IF blog category “advent calendar“. There are any number of articles from the last few years.

P.S.
1
Since I do not have an advent wreath, either, I took the  picture from the central media archive Wikimedia Commons. The copyright is with THWler 33142 at de.wikipedia.

Roland Dürre
Saturday December 24th, 2011

Advent Calendar – December, 24th

It was worth waiting for! Tonight, Santa Claus is coming!

I end the advent calendar of 2012 by wishing you all a happy Christmas in the name of IF-Blog. Perhaps this little poem with double-meaning by Klaus Hnilica is to your taste?

I would also like to wish you all a safe arrival in the New Year!

mehr »

Roland Dürre
Friday December 23rd, 2011

Advent Calendar – December, 23th ♫

One more night to go!

Now the time has arrived. Tomorrow, we are not setting the alarm clock. All the offices will be in a state of Christmas hibernation. The people look forwards to a hectic Christmas, or else flee towards a stressful skiing or other vacation. Some fly to the South Sea – and celebrate Christmas lying under palm trees. On an island in the sun.

mehr »

Roland Dürre
Thursday December 22nd, 2011

Advent Calendar – December, 22th ♫

Another 2 nights to go!

Then Father Christmas will come. Well, how about already starting to get in the right mood for the holiday.
With the Comedian Harmonists in a recording of 1932

mehr »

Roland Dürre
Wednesday December 21st, 2011

Advent Calendar – December, 21th

3 nights to go!

Christmas, the festival of love and presents! But we should keep in mind that we can only love others if we also love ourselves. The same is true for presents. Only if you give something to yourself, you can give something to others!

Today’s advent calendar offers a few precious bits of advice how you can combine the two.

 

mehr »

Roland Dürre
Tuesday December 20th, 2011

Advent Calendar – December, 20th ♫

Another 4 nights to go!

The nights get longer and longer. I look forward to the Christmassy cuddling more and more each day. It means the smell of fir, burning candles, delicious gingerbread and a little quiet around Christmas. It is the memories of many Christmasses that make Christmas something special

mehr »

Roland Dürre
Monday December 19th, 2011

Advent Calendar – December, 19

Another 5 nights to go!

And still we are talking Christmas presents… Today, you get two recommendations in case you cannot think of anything appropriate next week, either. Because these are presents you can probably even still get on the morning of Christmas Eve.
mehr »