Experiences of a Temporary Career Soldier #3 – Going Back Among the Soldiers …

… 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”.

After three and a half years of studies sitting at a desk, the hope to be finally again working with soldiers died within five minutes. Instead of survival training, planning the instructions for the platoon, room inspections and a leadership position in front of 50 soldiers, what awaited me now was never-ending paper work – which was not the fault of the company commander, either. For a corps guy like me, who never wanted anything other than lead people, this was a horror vision.

That means that, since the beginning of June, I have now not been fighting against insubordinate soldiers, supply demands for training and ammunition for shooting. Instead, my duties now include company training programs, writing orders and co-ordinating the company with the heads of the regiment. My personal computer and telephone are entirely under my own command, but I cannot command a single soldier. Due to the absence of my predecessor – she suffered from burnout (surprise, surprise) -, my post was totally orphaned and there was plenty of “old stuff” that needed to get done.

Regular on-duty hours are from 07.00 to 17.00 hours, which all ex-recruits should well remember, at least after the basic training. Strangely enough, the offices of the company commander and mine are always the last ones where the lights are switched off. That is even more remarkable since now two German officers divide the work of one company commander among them. Because that is exactly why the job of company operations officer has been invented several years ago. He is supposed to make life a little easier for the boss so the boss can concentrate on more important tasks

So what went wrong? We have twice as many people doing the job, but still both officers spend more time behind their desks, instead of in front of soldiers. Basically, the explanation is simple: The German armed forces are in a state of war in our own country. I guess in saying this, I already am one up on our highly appreciated Federal Minister of Defence Jung, who continues to call what we do in Afghanistan war. In our case, it is a paper war. We are waging war against forms, applications, written orders, demands, mountains of files and folders, not to mention all the other side-shows that keep us from doing our proper work.

And thus, I cannot avoid seeing the only daily motivation for what I do in the old motto of all recruits “just another x days until it is all over”.

After this months, I have another 9 to go.

(Translated by EG)

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