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Bundeswehr trainers overexerted new recruits

March 21, 2018

The Bundeswehr has accused drill instructors at a barracks in southern Germany of intentionally overexerting new recruits. Six recruits broke down during a running exercise in January, including one who was hospitalized.

Deutschland soldiers in Calw
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Kraufmann

The German military has accused drill instructors at the Staufer barracks in Pullendorf of intentionally overexerting new recruits during a training exercise in January, which saw six soldiers break down from exhaustion or injury.

Citing an unpublished report by Bundeswehr State Secretary Peter Tauber, German weekly Spiegel reported on Wednesday that the drill instructors stand accused of seeking to single out weaker recruits during a 15-kilometer marching exercise.

Read more: Bundeswehr admits failures following deadly training march

According to the report, some recruits were already failing to keep up with the rest of the group after just a single kilometer. However, instead of allowing the rest of the runners to take a break, instructors enforced penalty rounds, forcing them run back to their fallen colleagues up to three consecutive times. During the third round, one of the recruits collapsed unconscious and was taken to a hospital. Five other recruits reportedly collapsed from exhaustion.

According to Tauber's report, the incident showed that "not only was the methodology in physical education wrong, but it may also have violated the principles of leadership and military duties."

Two of the instructors supervising the run have already been penalized. A sergeant who accompanied the recruits during the exercise has been transferred to another post and remains under investigation. Meanwhile, a lieutenant was fined €2,000 ($2,455) for failing to fulfill his duty by not supervising the training.

Bundeswehr plagued by scandal

The accusations come at a sensitive time for the Staufer barracks, and the Bundeswehr more generally.

In early 2017, German media reported of "sexual-sadist practices" at the military training center in Pfullendorf, after trainers allegedly forced recruits to perform acts that were medically unnecessary and sexually motivated.

Five leading officers were demoted and seven soldiers were handed criminal charges in to order to "allow for a new start" at Staufer, according to the Defense Ministry.

January's incident isn't the only instance of recruits being dangerously overexerted, either. Last summer, a soldier died during a marching exercise at a barracks in Munster, Lower Saxony, after collapsing of heatstroke. That prompted the Defense Ministry to instruct all trainers that the individual's personal integrity should take precedence over all other training targets.

Read more: German military investigating right-wing extremism within its ranks

The Defense Ministry also admitted last year that it was investigating some 400 cases of right-wing extremism within the Bundeswehr's ranks. Only a handful of those cases were reported in the press, including that of Franco A., an army lieutenant who was exposed for leading a double life as a Syrian refugee and planning a terrorist attack.

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dm/ls (dpa, APP)