Corona crisis: Bundeswehr mobilizes 15,000 soldiers

Corona crisis: Bundeswehr mobilizes 15,000 soldiers

© Jonas Guttler / dpa

The Bundeswehr is preparing for a large-scale deployment because of the corona pandemic. From April 3 at the latest, thousands of soldiers should be ready to support the civil authorities in an emergency.

The plan is limited in military terms, three pages with lots of graphics, and it is confidential. Page one: “Spatial planning and force approach”, Page two: “Management structure”, Page three: “Forces categories and possible tasks”. It doesn’t get any shorter. And yet it is an operational plan that has never existed in the history of the republic.

According to SPIEGEL information, the Bundeswehr will mobilize 15,000 soldiers in the coming days to cope with the corona crisis. It is men and women who are not bound by foreign missions or NATO commitments. The “Final Operational Capability” should be established by April 3 at the latest, that is, the full operational readiness.

The plan precisely lists what the units should prepare for:

  • 5500 soldiers for “protection / protection”

  • 6000 for “support for the population”

  • 600 military police officers of the field hunters for “order / traffic service”

  • 18 decontamination groups with around 250 soldiers from the ABC defense for disinfection tasks

  • 2500 logistics soldiers with 500 trucks for “storage, transport, handling”

Under the command of Lt. Gen. Martin Schelleis, the National Territorial Commander, four regional leadership teams will lead the mission:

  • the naval command in Rostock for Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg

  • the Air Force Command in Berlin for Berlin and Brandenburg

  • the 1st Panzer Division in Oldenburg for Bremen, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and North Rhine-Westphalia

  • the 10th Panzer Division in VeitshOchheim in Bavaria for the rest of the republic

The plan also precisely lists the possible tasks that the soldiers could face: “mass accommodation (e.g. container) / quarantine accommodation”, regional aid based on the model of the “helping hands” in the refugee crisis, as men and women who can just get started. Space and property protection, protection of critical infrastructures, support for security services, traffic services, provision of supply areas and military airfields, disinfection of materials, areas and spaces.

Bundeswehr as a backup when the civil authorities are overwhelmed

It is an emergency plan. Germany assures the military again and again these days that Germany has significantly more civilian than military capabilities in all areas, and the capabilities are far from being exhausted. And yet – who knows what may come in this crisis. The Bundeswehr sees itself as a backup if the civil authorities get tight.

This time seems to be getting closer. The increasing demands of the civil authorities can be seen in a daily report from the defense department. Every day, the officials there meticulously list all requests for assistance received from the minister. Each individual request is marked with a traffic light color, whether it was approved or rejected or whether the house management has to look at the case again because it is legally sensitive.

Many of the requests – 200 on Friday morning – are obvious. Sometimes a district administrator from Brandenburg asks about 3000 protective masks, 10,000 protective coats and 250 liters of disinfectant from Bundeswehr camps. In the next column, the Rhineland-Palatinate Disaster Protection Agency asks for 200 camp beds. The fire brigade in Bavaria would like to quickly set up a corona call center and asks the Bundeswehr whether it can maybe provide the technology.

Demand for soldiers who are supposed to help out armed is much more sensitive. So one worries in the district office Miesbach that the warehouse of the technical relief organization is not sufficiently secured. Would the Bundeswehr be able to deploy ten armed soldiers to secure the camp for protective masks and medical supplies around the clock?

Inquiries like this have been piling up in the past few days. Baden-Wurttemberg is already considering officially declaring a state of emergency due to the catastrophic number of police personnel and requesting the Bundeswehr. Interior Minister Thomas Strobl has already contacted Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. So far, however, the ministry has not received a formal request from Stuttgart.

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