German military launches new recruitment drive with pledge troops will not have to fight abroad
Bundeswehr soldiers wear a face mask at a press conference showing the battlefield management system (BMS) in the 37th Panzer Infantry Regiment in Frankenberg, eastern Germany, on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. A battlefield management system (BMS) is a digital system that integrates information capture and processing to improve command and control of a military unit. The Battle Management System (BMS) has been introduced in the German military base since the beginning of April 2020 and also in the Bundeswehr since May 11, 2020. (AP Photo / Jens Meyer) - Jens Meyer / AP
The German military has launched an initiative to combat troop shortages by offering new recruits the guarantee that they will not be deployed abroad.
Thousands of recruits per year can join a new homeland security force that is only deployed within Germany to deal with internal security and crisis management.
Those who serve with the force are not sent on missions abroad, and the military is committed to deploying them as close as possible to their homes in Germany.
"The Homeland Security Force will give young people the opportunity to stand up for Germany and protect their home country," said Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at a press conference in order to start the new service.
"There are a lot of young people who are interested in a career in the armed forces but don't want to get overly involved to serve."
Despite the similar name, the new force bears no resemblance to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Instead, its work is expected to focus primarily on disaster relief and managing crises such as the coronavirus pandemic.
A soldier of the Bundeswehr stands before its opening on March 8, 2021 in a new vaccination center at the former Berlin Tempelhof Airport. (Photo by Tobias Schwarz / various sources / AFP) (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ / POOL / AFP via Getty Images) - TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP
The German military has had trouble recruiting troops since conscription ended in 2012, and 20,200 vacancies were vacant last year.
Ursula von der Leyen, now President of the European Commission, tried to address the problem during her time as German Defense Minister by offering soldiers cribs and flexible working hours for soldiers. But the measures were largely ridiculed and did little to remedy the troop shortage.
Her successor, Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer, has chosen a different approach by concentrating on the growing number of foreign missions by the German military.
The question of military operations overseas is controversial in Germany due to the history of the country. The Bundeswehr was founded as a purely defensive force by West Germany after the war and initially only took part in humanitarian missions abroad. It only took part in military operations outside of NATO countries in 1991.
However, missions abroad have increased in recent years, and German forces have served in Afghanistan and in the skies over Syria and Iraq. The Department of Defense now believes that the likelihood of being sent overseas discourages potential recruits.
Those who join the new homeland security force receive four months of basic military training and three months of specialist training. They will be reservists for six years and an estimated five months of active duty during that time.
Mandatory credit: Photo by MS CHS / POOL / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock (11846105r) Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) attends a press conference on the “Your Year for Germany” service on April 6, 2021. The Bundeswehr begins with the training for the new voluntary service in homeland security. Start of the voluntary service training in homeland security in Germany, Berlin - April 6th, 2021 - MS CHS / POOL / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock
The Defense Ministry says they will be used to fill gaps in Germany when regular personnel are deployed overseas. It is clear, however, that there is also hope that some will be lured into signing up for more permanent military life.
There is no shortage of work in the new troop. The German military has been deployed in the fight against the coronavirus, and around 20,000 soldiers are currently helping in retirement homes and with the introduction of the vaccine.
However, the new force has come under fire from critics who claim it will usurp the role of existing German volunteer services.
"Voluntary services are the prerogative of civil society, not the state," said Peter Neher, President of the Catholic Caritas in Germany, to the broadcaster Deutsche Welle. “Creating a new service that is much better paid is blind actionism. ”
The name of the new troop has also sparked some controversy. Heimat, the German word for home, is more often associated with the right and is a favorite of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
"We do not want to leave the term to the extreme right and let them abuse it, but rather to recapture it for the democratic center," said Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer. “Home is more than just a place. It is something that you carry in your heart. "
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