How Germany Is Expanding Its Home Reserves

A new scheme offers a more flexible approach for reserve life, making it easier for recruits to pursue other careers and studies.

The German military is expanding its home reserve forces through a new scheme designed for young people.

'Your Year For Germany' offers young volunteers seven months of military training in exchange for five months of service over a six-year period. 

Those taking part in the scheme see their duties restricted to home defence only and include military assistance during large-scale emergencies, such as natural disasters like floods or forest fires.

The newest recruits' first task could include supporting Germany's ongoing COVID vaccination programme.

Since its introduction, the scheme has proved very popular – 1,000 available spaces advertised this year have already attracted nine times as many applicants.

Brigade General Torsten Gersdorf, Land Commander of North Rhine-Westphalia, explained the reasoning behind the new recruitment strategy.

"We are focused on a different audience – people who do not want to join the army for a period of four years," he told Forces News in Hoexter, near Paderborn.

"They want just to join, for example, for one year."

New recruits training at barracks in Hoexter.

Candidates for the programme have to be at least 17 years old and can choose when to go on duty and for how long each time but must deploy for five months over the six-year period.

The flexible arrangement makes it easier for recruits to pursue other careers and studies. 

Recruit, Private Christoph Machel, is on a seven-month basic training course and will, if successful, become a German Army reservist.

He said: "I can take this five months in pieces over the six years... bigger or smaller pieces where I go on more or less."

Germany's overhaul of its domestic reserve forces comes amid heightened tension with Russia.

Brigade General Gersdorf said: "One of the key issues will be that we will increase our numbers of home defence forces.

"We will introduce a new level we had in the past but we actually cancelled after the Cold War.

"It will be now reintroduced at the regimental level."

Earlier this month tensions were flaring between Russia and Ukraine with at one point the EU estimating that there was 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine's border.

Russia has long bristled at the deployment of NATO forces near its borders and stepped up its drills as relations with the West have sunk to post-Cold War lows over the annexation of Crimea, allegations of Russian meddling in elections and hacking attacks, plus other issues.