Why do some people not respect our soldiers?
We. Serve. Germany. "With this motto, the Bundeswehr has been campaigning for young people in a wide-ranging campaign since the summer of 2011.  With the suspension of conscription, the Federal Republic of Germany is following the model of many NATO partners and neighboring European countries and is converting the armed forces to a volunteer army.  The voluntary military service (FWD) was also introduced, which takes up some elements of the old conscription model and at the same time is intended to attract the interest of a socially diversified target group for the Bundeswehr through flexible framework conditions, good pay and an accommodating exit option.
M.A., born 1982; PhD student at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main; research assistant at the Hertie School of Governance, Friedrichstrasse 180, 10117 Berlin. [email protected]
This article will first explain the special features of this new service format and show the quantitative development of the FWD. This is followed by a qualitative analysis of who the Bundeswehr can win over for the new service format, what motives and expectations the volunteers come with and what implications this could have for the Bundeswehr organization in the long term. Methodically, the article draws on an extensive document and data analysis on the one hand, and on the other it draws on the results of a qualitative longitudinal study in which a total of 26 soldiers at three times of their FWD at different troop locations based on semi structured interviews were interviewed. When selecting the interviewees, it was not a question of the soldiers being representative in the statistical sense, but rather that they should cover the broadest possible range of behavioral patterns. In this way, a multi-layered illumination of the FWD is to be guaranteed by contrasting cases.  The strength of this qualitative research is to gain a deeper insight into the personal perspective of different soldiers without wanting to draw quantitative conclusions about the absolute frequency of the individual types.
Central characteristics of voluntary military serviceIn order to enable young people to get to know the Bundeswehr as an institution without having to immediately commit to serving as a regular or professional soldier for several years, the Bundeswehr introduced voluntary military service at the suggestion of Frank-Jürgen Weise's reform commission. The commission sees the service as an offer "that reconciles personal, professional, social and security interests. (...) Our society needs a culture of voluntariness."  The FWD can only be provided by German nationals, so it is in the In contrast to the Federal Volunteer Service (BFD), which was introduced as a replacement for community service, it is not open to foreigners. The (mostly) young people commit themselves to the FWD for 7 to 23 months. The first six months are a trial period during which both parties can terminate the contract immediately. When signing the contract, those doing voluntary military service (FWDL) from a period of service of twelve months must generally declare themselves ready to take part in missions abroad.  This fundamentally distinguishes today's FWDL from the former conscripts, who were exempt from deployments abroad and only had to commit to employment abroad in the event of a voluntary extension of their service.
Before they are employed, the young men and women go through an examination and a selection process, which tests them for physical, psychological and cognitive abilities. The declared aim of the Federal Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière is that 5,000 to 15,000 FWDL support the Bundeswehr at all times.  The FWD has several functions: On the one hand, it should serve as a recruiting pool for the armed forces in order to cover part of the annual personnel requirements of around 13,000 regular and professional soldiers.  On the other hand, it should anchor the Bundeswehr sustainably in society and thus continue the tradition of conscription in this area. The young men and women from a civilian life integrated into the armed forces for a limited time. In this way, they could act as "ambassadors" for the Bundeswehr as an institution, especially for their social environment.
ChallengesIn principle, the replacement of compulsory military and community service by a voluntary service corresponds to our free-democratic model of society. Both services, i.e. FWD and BFD, are now open to men and women, as well as - at least in theory - all generations. It allows all citizens to be actively involved in supporting institutions of the community. The Bundeswehr in particular has "an interest in showing a cross-section of the population".  On the one hand, this is intended to prevent a "state within the state"; on the other hand, this is the only way to ensure that the dangers and burdens of foreign missions are borne equally by all population groups.
This balanced recruitment was seen as a great challenge by various sides when the conscription was suspended. In view of the demographic change, as a result of which a decline in school leavers of almost 20 percent is forecast in the next ten years, and the widely feared shortage of skilled workers, the Bundeswehr will in future enter into tough competition for young talent. A general change in values in the direction of a post-materialistic society, in which individuality, self-determination and an increasing cost-benefit calculation are gaining in importance, make things even more difficult.  Critics of the volunteer army fear that society could distance itself further from the armed forces and that the abolition of conscription could lead to a social imbalance in the army; The Bundeswehr could become an attractive employer, especially for the socially disadvantaged, in structurally weak regions or citizens who glorify violence.  Another fear - especially with regard to the mandatory obligation for foreign deployments - is that "suspension or abolition conscription (could) increase the willingness to send Bundeswehr contingents abroad or even to participate in interventions such as those carried out by the professional armies of some larger NATO countries, which the other measures to increase efficiency (within the Bundeswehr, RH) also assume let ".  Precisely for this reason it is important to represent a broad spectrum of society in the armed forces in order to create a link between the military and civil world as well as the political decision-makers.
In order to reach all citizens in the long term, the Bundeswehr has introduced a package of measures with which the FWD is to be advertised. As before, all young men and women in their 17th year of age will be contacted and made aware of the offer. The registration offices provide the relevant data exclusively for sending information material about career opportunities in the armed forces.  This procedure, which is controversial for reasons of data protection law, is a privilege of the Bundeswehr.
In addition, the military pay was increased from just under 300 euros to 777 euros when starting work. In contrast to the BFD, which currently pays a maximum pocket money of 348 euros, this grants a financially independent life and thus also addresses those who do not receive any additional support from their families, spouses or other sources of income. But it was clear from the start that financial incentives should not be enough, just like the numerous advertising, image and information campaigns that have been designed since the suspension of compulsory military service. The Federal Armed Forces are especially attractive to a cross-section of the population if the service is socially recognized and respected, said the Defense Minister: "If it is possible to create a greater awareness of it - that is not possible with an advertising campaign and not overnight, but rather only as part of a process that we have to initiate in our society - and to make visible what soldiers are doing for our country today and tomorrow, then we can be confident that service in the Bundeswehr, including voluntary military service in the Bundeswehr, for the benefit and benefit of all of us. "
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