Army eyes school dropouts to fill ranks

German military officials are considering pursuing high school dropouts to fill the Bundeswehr's ranks following the end to conscription, a media report said Tuesday. But a plan to recruit foreigners is encountering resistance.

Army eyes school dropouts to fill ranks
Photo: DPA

The Bundeswehr is hoping to make military service more attractive to less educated and unskilled Germans as it transitions to a fully professional force, daily Financial Times Deutschland reported.

“In light of the demographic developments as well as the ongoing structural adjustments to the Bundeswehr, young people with below-average education and school dropouts will now be approached for recruiting,” the document acquired by the paper reads.

This “opening of new potential for gaining personnel” will be necessary to maintain the necessary troop numbers, it says, calling the plan an “Attractiveness Programme.”

These recruits would be targeted to fill mainly lower-ranking military positions, the paper said.

The latest detail in military reform plans by the Defence Ministry came after this weekend’s news that foreigners living in Germany could be allowed to join the Bundeswehr.

But a Defence Ministry spokesperson told the Financial Times Deutschland on Tuesday that only EU citizens and those from a few other countries would be among those considered for enlistment.

Members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right coalition are apparently considered foreigners could have divided loyalties.

“Germany doesn’t need a foreign legion,” said Christian Lindner, the general secretary of the Free Democrats.

Other ideas revealed over the weekend included plans to make the Bundeswehr more family-friendly for soldiers, with the provision of parent-child work rooms in around 200 bases, as well as holiday care for children to be provided at 100 bases.

The top age limit for reserve soldiers would also be scrapped, with the maximum time for soldiers to remain in the military raised from 20 to 25 years.

The Local/ka

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German army suspends soldiers over far-right suspicions

The German army has suspended soldiers in its ceremonial guard over suspicion of sexual aggression and sympathy with the far-right, a recurring problem within the Bundeswehr.

Members of the German Armed Forces at a ceremony in Brandenburg.
Members of the German Armed Forces at a ceremony in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

The company, part of a prestigious battalion tasked with welcoming foreign heads of state, was “withdrawn” from active service in relation to incidents which occurred “in a far right context”, a spokesman for the German defence ministry said Friday.

The group is said to have participated in “perverse initiation and drinking rituals” and submitted new recruits to “sexualised violence”, according to the spokesman.

A witness told the German weekly Der Spiegel, which uncovered the affair, that within the battalion’s second company, at least six soldiers had formed a far-right group, calling themselves the “wolf pack”.

The head of the group is said to have aimed racial insults at other soldiers from minority backgrounds. A soldier at a rank equivalent to corporal is said to have worn a t-shirt with the slogan “Sonnenstudio 88”, a number which represents “Heil Hitler” in the neo-Nazi movement.

The alleged incidents “bring shame on us all”, the defence ministry spokesman said.

The German army, the Bundeswehr, will “pursue all legal means” to “remove” the culprits identified by other soldiers.

The German government has been worried for years about some soldiers, including those in the special forces, adhering to far-right groups.

The elite KSK commando force was partially dissolved in 2020 after munitions were stolen and members were seen performing a Hitler salute at a party.

In June, a platoon stationed in Lithuania was recalled after accusations of racist and anti-Semitic behaviour.

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