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Moaning German Soldiers an "Embarrassment"

From The Telegraph's (HT: Alex) most popular article today:

German soldiers are softies who lack discipline, hate responsibility and show an inadequate desire to serve their country, according to the army's chief inspector.

Related posts on Atlantic Review: German Soldiers in Afghanistan: Drinking Instead of Fighting and German Beer in Exchange for US Intelligence Information

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Pat Patterson on :

Which means that the present Germany military is fitting in nicely to the tradition of moaning and complaining by soldiers for the last fifteen millenia. Give them something to fight for and most of the moaning will subside as other concerns become paramount. Plus isn't there a German equivalent of US Cavalry. http://www.uscav.com/

Pamela on :

I really don't know how to read this. First, I wouldn't discount the willingness of the Brits to disparage the German military any chance they get. Second, what if the sleeping bags really DO suck? An unwillingness to listen to what the troops need - and respond accordingly - is a recipe for disaster. I remember when we first went into Afghanistan and our guys didn't have the right boots. It took a few months to get that fixed, but nobody called our guys 'soft' for bitching and the command structure listened. The other 'theme music' I hear in the background here - the UK Ministry of Defense has consistently failed to provide properly armoured vehicles for their troops. If you want to read about the absolute outrage of the MoD sacrificing UK troops, go over to the EU Referendum blog and find their 'Defence of the Realm' stuff. http://www.eureferendum.blogspot.com/ Ok, we already know the Germans drink beer on the job. And the French don't drink wine? Please.

Marie Claude on :

"Ok, we already know the Germans drink beer on the job. And the French don't drink wine?" Chère Madmoisil, the french professional army doesn't drink wine anymore (as did the conscripted army of the legend) but water (we incorpored muslims, ya know) though they drink beer and sodas when they are off

Zyme on :

I agree with Pat - these issues are always a concern as long as there are no others. And I have read about the Snatch Landrovers for some time on the page you provided Pamela - an absolute outrage which I cannot imagine to happen here. As far as I read, German armored vehicles are quite at the forefront, especially in the scout and patrol category. Following the increasing attacks in Northern Afghanistan they have constantly been updated and the chance of fatal injuries has decreased a lot since the beginning of the engagement.

Don S on :

Sounds like General Schneiderhahn may feel embarassment about public complaints. Perhaps he would prefer to not listen. To me pub;ic criticism seems normal, even healthy. Military contractors are not angels; sometimes they supply crap equipment or equipment unsuited to the local conditions. Complaints of this nature are not wimpines or cowardice - rather thay are valuable feedback. One thing I wondered about is how much Germans respect their troops? I won't venture to offer an opinion, save that certain things I've read amy indicate a certain love-hate relationship; Not perhaps with individuals but with the Army as a whole. "It's Tommy this, and Tommy that, and Tommy 'ow's your soul?" (Rudyard Kipling).

Zyme on :

I would say that while the army was bitterly protested against by the generation aged 40-60, it is considered to be a favourable employer for the younger ones. Favourable as it provides a safe job and unique advantages (for example after serving time it continues to pay your salary for years so that its former employees are easily able to study/train for new jobs. Of course this may also have a public relations aspect. In recent years it has begun "training" journalists or placing its reserve officers in decision making positions, which may also contribute in the wondrous betterment of its image in the long run ;) But I guess this is no different from the US Army for example.

Don S on :

I wouldn't think that seeing it as a favorable career prospect = respect, Zyme. Perhaps in some sections of the populace. In the US there tends to be a definite class divide, with blue-state intellectuals and 'metrosexuals' tending very much against their children, realtives, and friends going into the armed forces. Blood is thicker than water in such cases, and the childrens of unoversity proifs who go into the army against parental advice tend to change their parents minds over time.

Pat Patterson on :

Not really! Since the Vietnam War the US military, all branches, have been found to be better educated and from wealthier backgrounds then some of the professiorial class that seems, without much proof, to reject the military. 95% of the officer corps have baccalaureates before enlisting and if they want to stay or be promoted they better acquire a masters and in many cases a PhD. The best prepared student I ever saw in grad school was a Lt. Col working on his PhD in Public Adminstration. But he had served three tours in Vietnam, was essentially a spy during the period when the US was able to monitor Soviet bases in East Germany and vice versa, spoke and read German, French and Russian and I was shocked to find out that even when drunk he could recite hundreds of lines in Homeric Greek and English of The Iliad. And regardless of how many times the media hint at a lowering of standards for the enlisted the quality of volunteers since 2001 has actually risen. Many low income or young men with poor educational backgrounds have been turned away because the don't have the education to join and often have done poorly on the psychological tests or the ASVAB(Armed Services Vocational Apptitude Battery. I know it seems that conscription would make an army more democratic but in practice the US found that not to be the case. Set the bar high, good if not adequate equipment, patriotism without fanatacism and training so rigorous(or brutal) that even some fourty years later I can still remember how hard it was to pee after getting pummeled by a DI for being, charitably, a smart mouth. Actually I can't even repeat everything he said and not being from the South I didn't understand 90% of what he was screaming. http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/cda08-05.cfm

Zyme on :

The only other kind of respect for the army I can think of is aquired by defending your country or successfully extending its borders. Not the kind of thing you can expect soon in Europe ;)

Marie Claude on :

Well, the Brits are really unemployed these days, when they are not talking of the albatros weird sex life, they are bashing us, and when there isn't anything bad to say, they look for the Germans LMAO Now, I understand that they have an antagonist vision on the next Barroso candidature, that Germany and France support, not that I like him, but he'll be doing what France and Germany 'll tell him to do LMAO

Don S on :

Marie, I'm working in the UK. Haven't been bashing you froggies much lately, because I'm too bloody busy. But then I'm not a brit, so perhaps you are correct after all.

Zyme on :

Due to this thread I ve looked for and found several articles describing the current situation in the North of Afghanistan, especially those articles which tried catching up the mood among the soldiers. Among the links in German, first I found this one: http://wiegold.focus.de/augen_geradeaus/2009/06/gedenktermine-.html A prominent journalist who has an eye on German engagements abroad for more than a decade, saying that the German defense minister confirmed that on July 6th, the first bravery medals will be a awarded. This is how they look like: http://www.bundeswehr.de/fileserving/PortalFiles/C1256EF40036B05B/W27K7HV8960INFODE/_MG_9082_640.jpg It is even suspected that Chancellor Merkel might be awarding those, but this is not confirmed. Then in the Financial Times Deutschland, there is a long article from one of their journalist touring Northern Afghanistan and describing the mood among the troops: http://www.ftd.de/politik/deutschland/:Agenda-Die-Bundeswehr-muss-t%F6ten/528396.html Very informative and detailed. There I found out that recent offensives were so intense that US bombers had to come to their support for the first time. It also seems like reconstruction teams are now retreating the area, as their contacts among the natives are getting death threats from the Taliban. The mixture of Afghan elections in August and German elections in September this year is also stimulating Taliban efforts in the region. Rocket bombardement of German camps, a real plague in spring this year, seems to have ceased completely with the arrival of the German Quick Reaction Force. Instead the Taliban are now relying on IEDs to ambush and kill German soldiers. This has prompted the German Army to relocate heavier armored vehicles to Afghanistan (Schützenpanzer). Also the vocabulary among the German soldiers and in defense ministry has changed: The Taliban are no more simple "insurgents", but instead called "Feinde", literally translated "foes" (but the German word is charged with a far more hostile meaning, which explains the long lasting hesitation of the defense ministry for using this term) - and the defense minister is also speaking of comrades "killed in action" for the first time. On the other hand, the officers leading the first battle units in Afghanistan seem to not be without pride: The commanding officer introduced a lieutenant to the journalist with the words "The first lieutenant leading an infantry assault since 1945." They are even thinking about drawing the locations of their battles on their emblems or flags. According to their officer, they have encountered 8 battles in the last 6 weeks. The consequences of this become clear in an article of the BILD, with the journalist having interviewed those involved in battle: http://www.bild.de/BILD/politik/2009/06/19/afghanistan/bundeswehr-schickt-neue-panzer.html There the soldiers bemoan (yes they moan) about the fact that their efforts and heroism go unnoticed in the German public. Also recent events are covered. The loss of a soldier on April 29th to a AT-rocket, saving his comrades from the same fate by taking all the impact with this body has obviously left an intense emotional response among the survivors. A few days later they killed two Taliban. One soldier is quoted: "When they are shooting at us, they are getting their's. When you are behind 0:1 [soccer score], then you ll want to even the score - and lead 2:1! It's as simple as that. Anyone not wanting to hear this should not send us here." I guess this updates the mood on the front in detail :)

Zyme on :

Further update: According to the Handelsblatt [http://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/deutschland/schwere-waffen-fuer-bundeswehr-in-afghanistan;2370469] due to increased fighting the social democratic SPD is now demanding the usage of attack helicopters in Afghanistan. At the same time SPON quotes Elke Hoff from the Free Democrats (FDP), who argues in favor of deploying Eurofighters to become independent from US air support, as the US air force in the South takes too long to arrive during battle in the North. http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/0,1518,631758,00.html

John in Michigan, US on :

Interesting. Did "The first lieutenant leading an infantry assault since 1945" have to phone the Defense Ministry before leading the assault? Could it be that US fighter support is slow because the request has to go through NATO channels, rather than US channels? Maybe a realistic consensus is finally forming? If things really are changing, that's great. We'll see. If they do change, it is tempting to credit Obama, apparently fighting his war is more palatable than fighting Bush's war. But think of how many German soldiers had to die (due to impossible rules of engagement resulting in stalemate with the Taliban and inability to conduct real counter-insurgency) so that Europe's politicians could a) keep their distance from Bush, while b) keeping the NATO relationship upon which Europe's social spending depends...

Pat Patterson on :

John-A few months ago a small SOF team was helicoptered into to reinforce a French detachment. The French it turned out did not have radios that could contact the Americans directly but the Americans were listening in and were loading up when word came to go. But in this case the French commanders in Afghanistan directly contacted the independent American command for help while the Germans, officialy having no direct contact with America except through the ISAF and NATO basically were tied to a chain of command. And in this particular case the American air cover was indeed unavailable, some were recalled, rearmed and refueled and then sortied. Bravery or national spirit always is secondary to tactics, terrain and logistics. In this particular case it was the Germans who were the spear throwers vs a tactically sophisticated and equipped Taliban who would have made short work of the Germans if the battle had remained static and the multiplier of combat not changed from the 19th Century to the 21st. Politicians who make speeches and pin medals should be made to crouch down in hastily dug holes in Helmand province as donkey delivered mortars are used to walk rounds toward presighted positions whenever they imply that the fighting spirit of their brave soldiers is enough. If Germany continues to professionalize their military then the treatment of its fighters will become part of the institutional memory. Thus creating an estrangement between the politicians and the soldiers. It seems that Germany has not learned a thing in over 100 years on the importance of the relationship between its government and its soldiers.

Pat Patterson on :

On rereading the last paragraph that was probably harsher than I intended. I did not mean to imply that the poor treatment of the military by Germany's politicians could lead to the kind of estrangement that Hitler was eventually able to take advantage of but rather a hesitancy among the military to order actions that will cost them their careers and politicians that resent the military as part of their DNA.

Zyme on :

Hesitant behavior of our troops is part of our current system (in this case, Innere Führung), which requires every soldier to personally think about whether the order he carries out is constitutional. For an army that has lower ranking officers taking initiative on their own (as surely most would like to do so also today), you will have to wait for the next system. This one is fundamentally based on preventing the kind of engagements from the past, so that the army will never be able to reach the full potential of its soldiers. Believe me it was hard for me to accept this reality too, but I did. In this country you have to, otherwise everyone interested in military politics would have long gone crazy here.

Kevin Sampson on :

'Hesitant behavior of our troops is part of our current system (in this case, Innere Führung), which requires every soldier to personally think about whether the order he carries out is constitutional.' On a battlefield, that will usually get you, or somebody else, killed.

Pat Patterson on :

I can only hope that how an American uses hesitation is not quite the same in this particular incident. I was referring to an officer or even an enlisted man simply not acting as a hesitation because of possible consequences. While it seems that, if accurate, Zyme has described a sitation that has a solider thinking over every order which as Kevin points out will either cost the battle or worse the death of a fellow countryman.

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