Recent scandals have rocked the Bundeswehr: a lack of military strength, abuses of power, and right wing extremists in its ranks. The Bundeswehr has long been neglected, leading to staff shortages, poor equipment and a high level of frustration.
Germany had conscription until 2011, and the task of the German armed forces was clearly defined: to defend the nation’s borders. Today the Bundeswehr is a professional army, and German soldiers are currently taking part in 15 overseas missions, including combat missions. Soldiers deployed abroad in particular want to have the backing of society and the full support of the politicians, but many soldiers complain they aren’t getting it. Sergeant Major Alex P. is a veteran. He was left severely traumatized after the Taliban attacked a German patrol in Afghanistan on Good Friday 2010. "People don't know what the fear of death is. They don't know that you're afraid for your comrades," he says. "Very few people outside the Bundeswehr have any idea of a soldier’s life," he complains. A broad stratum of German society was either firmly opposed to the military deployment or showed no interest in the troops at all, which left many soldiers embittered. The German parliament’s military commissioner, Hans-Peter Bartels, is aware of the soldiers’ needs - many in particular would like to see more transparency. If the politicians want men and women to serve in the Bundeswehr, they should explain to them what they have to do and, above all, why. No matter how well trained soldiers are, combat missions are a political decision and those that take them need to be more candid.