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Readers sound off on naval training tragedy

A tragic death, rumors of mutiny and allegations of a navy cover-up all concerned our readers enough that they wrote in with their opinions on how officers should be trained in this day and age.

The German navy training vessel Gorch Fock at anchor, silhouetted against an overcast sky

A female cadet fell to her death in November on the Gorch Fock

The following comments reflect the views of DW-WORLD.DE readers. DW-WORLD.DE reserves the right to edit for length and appropriateness of content.

German defense minister fires ship's captain amid mutiny rumors

It has been a puzzle to me that modern navies continue to train officer cadets using old sailing vessels. While I can understand the traditions, experience, terminology and marlinspike seamanship, I find it rather interesting and somewhat expensive. Several South American and European countries have such ships, the US Coast Guard has a World War II prize that it uses for such training. The US Navy, however, does not use such ships. The closest it comes are some very small dry sailers that the Naval Academy midshipmen tool around in Chesapeake Bay. Instead the US Navy has its midshipmen do rotations on regular ships of the line. Old sailing ships and technology were inherently dangerous, especially in foul weather - high rigging, yardarm perches, etc. Perhaps it is time to let it go. -- Douglas, US

As a former soldier and current firefighter, I often face difficult situations doing my job. Because of this it is critical that we constantly train under harsh and dangerous conditions. From my experience it is clear that one has to constantly evaluate and understand the environment in which one has chosen to work. In this situation you have cadets who are improperly trained or physically unfit to perform dangerous jobs such as the ones found on a sailing ship. I cannot find fault with officers who are ordering cadets to perform dangerous tasks that they themselves have performed earlier in their career. The cadets should not have been forced to the mast but rather relieved of duty and discharged from the service. This event brings to light a flaw in the training program of the Bundesmarine. These cadets should have been made aware of the physical requirements and dangers of their training. The public must realize that soldiers and sailors are not on a holiday cruise or camping adventure. There are risks and death can be one of them. If you don't feel confident doing dangerous work, please choose a safer profession. -- Stephen, US

My opinion is that naval cadets should not be forced to climb high rigging on ships. Some people have a fear of heights which can lead to unnecessary tragedy. Besides, such "high wire" acts are not germane to modern naval vessels nor to naval competence and leadership. -- Joseph, Ireland

What are those officer cadets doing in the Bundesmarine in the first place if they are not prepared to "serve before the mast," an English term for seamen expected to go aloft in the rigging of a sailing ship? Say they have qualified and are in executive positions in a crisis situation. How can any fellow seaman trust them? I would definitely have no respect for them. -- George, South Africa

They shouldn't be made to climb the rigging. However, when they regularly refuse to climb, they should not receive a promotion. And of course a safety harness is a must. -- Robak, Poland

Compiled by Stuart Tiffen
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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