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100% volunteer

July 4, 2011

Over 3,400 German men and women began military service on Monday as the first group of exclusively volunteer recruits. After over 50 years of conscripting soldiers, the Bundeswehr is now completely voluntary.

Volunteer recruits begin service in Germany
The German armed forces is now 100% volunteerImage: picture alliance / dpa

Germany's first group of all-volunteer military recruits started their service on Monday, after post-war Germany's long-standing conscription policy ended on July 1.

The 3,419 new recruits - which included some conscripts who extended service after beginning in January - were welcomed by Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere at their new barracks in Berlin.

"The numbers are good," de Maiziere said after meeting personally with some of the recruits, adding, "We didn't know how many it would be. We'll have to work hard to maintain the numbers. Part of that is making sure the young men here and the young women who are coming have an attractive year."

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere
De Maiziere said he was 'pleased by the numbers' and that his goal had been metImage: picture alliance / dpa / picture-alliance

Objective achieved

The terms of the new service have changed: it will last longer - 23 months compared with six formerly - and be paid better, around 1,000 euros per month compared to 378 euros, including accommodation and medical insurance.

In addition to the recruits who began service on Monday, de Maiziere said another 1,500 would start in October, which means the minister will have reached his goal of enlisting 5,000 recruits by the end of this year. De Maiziere said it would take some time - "up to five years" - to see if Germany's volunteer army would be a success.

The policy of conscripting soldiers came to an official end on Friday after over 55 years in Germany and follows the practice of most NATO member states, the armies of which are composed exclusively of professional soldiers.

Conscription in Germany became increasingly unpopular and irrelevant in recent years. Statistics from 2010 show that only 17 percent of young German men joined the Bundeswehr as conscripts, with many more opting instead to perform a six-month compulsory civil service.


The phase-out of conscription comes amidst significant structural reforms within the German armed forces. The Bundeswehr is in the process of shifting its focus from territorial defense to fighting international missions around the world.

The reforms envision a military capable of deploying 10,000 soldiers abroad simultaneously while reducing the overall number of service members to 185,000.

At present, the Bundeswehr comprises just over 245,000 active troops, 188,000 of which are professional soldiers, 25,000 conscripts between 18-25, and 33,000 volunteer conscripts who are serving a longer term.

Author: Gabriel Borrud (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Michael Lawton