German soldiers run out of overtime, forced to quit NATO exercise

Soldiers from the Royal Netherlands Army participating in Exercise Cold Response 16 position themselves after exiting aircraft during the first phase of the extreme cold weather training. Cold Response is a Norwegian-led exercise that rehearses high-intensity operations in challenging winter conditions. The exercise involves more than 3,000 U.S. service members; approximately 6,500 members of the Norwegian Armed Forces; and nearly 4,000 troops from 11 allied and partner nations including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and close to 300 NATO personnel.

German troops were forced to leave a NATO military exercise only 12 days into the month-long event in Norway after exhausting all of their allotted overtime.

Under German military organization, personnel are only allowed to work 41 hours a week, with no monetary compensation for overtime- only the reward of time off.

According to the Independent, Soldiers often are spending entire days doing nothing due to the country’s stringent working restrictions.

Budget cuts have hit the German military particularly hard- last year, less than half of Germany’s 66 Panavia Tornado aircraft were classified as “airworthy”. Ground troops were forced to use broomsticks in place of machine guns during exercises and the military is severely short of night-vision devices.

Soldiers from Company D, 2nd Battalion 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, traverse frigid terrain at Exercise Cold Response 16. Cold Response is a regularly scheduled Norwegian-led joint multinational exercise with a focus on high-intensity operations in winter conditions. This year is the first time the 13 participating nations are joined by the U.S. Army.
Soldiers from Company D, 2nd Battalion 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, traverse frigid terrain at Exercise Cold Response 16. Cold Response is a regularly scheduled Norwegian-led joint multinational exercise with a focus on high-intensity operations in winter conditions. This year is the first time the 13 participating nations are joined by the U.S. Army.

With budget shortages affecting readiness capabilities, German Parliamentary Armed Forces Commissioner Hans-Peter Bertels has called for the German government to increase flexibility through conversion of weekly overtime limits to yearly limits.

Expressing his disdain for the current restrictions, Bertels said that “It can’t be (tolerated) that we can’t fulfill our Nato obligations because of overtime.”

The German Bundeswehr has a budget of about 3.4 billion Euros, about 1.2% of Germany’s GDP.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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