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PART ONE: BACKGROUND
This article provides an overview of the German Armed Forces (Bundewehr’s) Commando Course (Einzelkämpferlehrgang).
The Einzelkämpferlehrgang (EKL), also known as Ranger Training or Combat Survival Course, is a two-part training programme delivered by the Infantry School in Hammelburg. The course is broadly comparable to the US Ranger and British All Arms Commando Courses.
The course teaches candidates to lead a unit cut off from friendly forces. Training is rigorous and very demanding, and includes: living off the land; SERE (survival, escape, resistance and evasion) training; traversing difficult terrain: and recovery by own forces.
Part One of this article provides some background information, such as women and the Einzelkämpferlehrgang, and a brief history. Part Two looks at the entry standards for the Einzelkämpferlehrgang, before Part Three outlines the selection and training process for candidates. Part Four briefly outlines the training organisations involved in the training of Einzelkämpferlehrgang candidates. Finally, Part Five provides some useful links and identifies other articles the reader may find useful.
I apologise if any of the translations are incorrect/imprecise.
The aim of this article is to describe the fundamental entry requirements, selection process and training for personnel seeking to become a member of the Bundeswehr’s Commando community.
1.2 Translating the Term
The term Einzelkämpferlehrgang can be translated as lone course or single fighter course:
- Einzel: single/singles.
- Kämpfer: fighter, warrior or combatant.
- Lehrgang: course.
It is also known as Ranger training and as the Combat Survival Course.
1.3 Women and the Bundeswehr Commando Course
Both men and women can attend the Bundeswehr Commando Course.
1.4 Tier 1 or Tier 2 Status
Einzelkämpferlehrgang personnel are considered Elite Forces soldiers rather than Special Forces soldiers.
A ‘Tier 1’ SF unit is usually tasked with direct action. Other special operations forces (SOF) are referred to as ‘Tier 2’ units as they, usually, fulfil a supporting role for the Tier 1 units.
The motto of the Bundeswehr Commando Course is “Numquam Desperare”, Niemals Aufgeben or Never Give Up.
1.6 Brief History
Originally delivered by the Infantry School (Infanterieschule), the course moved to the Airborne and Air Transport School, located in Old Town, between 2007 and 2013. In 2013, the course returned to the Infantry School (Pritzsche, 2013) located in Hammelburg.
Previously, the course was a requirement for becoming an officer in the Bundeswehr but is now optional for both officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs). However, it is still a requirement for officers of combat troops (e.g. Infantry officers) until replaced by a dedicated survival course.
The Einzelkämpferlehrgang was also a requirement for the German Army’s Kommando Spezialkraft (KSK) candidates, although it is still a requirement for the German Navy’s Special Operations Command (KSM) Kampfschwimmer candidates as part of their three year training programme.
PART TWO: ENTRY STANDARDS AND APPLICATIONS
“Only through comradeship, team spirit and mutual support they will persevere.” (Pritzsche, 2013).
The Bundeswehr does not accept direct entry applicants, i.e. civilians with no prior military experience, for the Bundeswehr Commando Course. As a result, volunteers for the Bundeswehr Commando Course may be accepted from Bundeswehr military personnel (both officer and enlisted) from any branch of military service to serve with the Commando community.
Consequently, there is one recognised pathway to become a member of the Commando community:
- Attend and pass the Bundeswehr Commando Course.
2.1 Recruitment Centre
Recruitment for Bundeswehr Commando candidates is undertaken by the Infantry School (needs verification).
2.2 General Requirements and Eligibility for All Candidates
Subject to the requirements outlined below, all Bundeswehr officers and enlisted (other ranks) personnel are eligible to attend the Bundeswehr Commando training programme.
General Requirements for all candidates:
PART THREE: OUTLINE OF SELECTION AND TRAINING
“You must not only endure, they must also lead their soldiers.” (Pritzsche, 2013).
This section of the article provides an outline of the selection and training undertaken whilst on the Bundeswehr Commando Course.
The training programme of the Bundeswehr Commando Course is divided into two parts:
- Basic Course (Grundlehrgang) or EKL 1:
- SERE-skills; and
- Small unit tactics.
- Advanced Course (Leistungslehrgang) or EKL 2:
- Instructor certification for previously acquired skills;
- Leadership and advanced infantry minor tactics; and
- Guerrilla warfare fundamentals.
3.1 Entrance Test
On day one of the Bundeswehr Commando Course, the 50+ candidates will have to successfully complete an entrance test. The test consists of two physical tests (Pritzsche, 2013):
- The obstacle course which must be completed in less than 2 minutes 15 seconds; and
- A 3,000 metre run, carrying 10 kilograms of equipment, to be completed in less than 19 minutes.
If a candidate successfully completes these two tests, then they can continue with the course.
3.2 EKL 1
During this stage of training, candidates are assessed on their leadership skills throughout the course. They will also be required to carry 25 kg (55 lbs) or more of equipment during marches (Pritzsche, 2013).
Table 1 provides an illustration of the training undertaken during EKL 1. Most of the training outlined in Table 1 is accompanied by sleep and food deprivation, as well as physical and mental stress.
|Table 1: Outline of EKL 1 training programme|
3.3 EKL 2
Table 2 provides an illustration of the training undertaken during EKL 2.
|Table 2: Outline of EKL 2 training programme|
PART FOUR: TRAINING ORGANISATIONS
This section of the article provides an outline of the various stakeholders who have some input to the selection and training process for the Bundeswehr’s Commando Course.
4.1 Training Company
Training for the Bundeswehr Commando Course is delivered by the Training Company of the Infantry School, located in Hammelburg.
The Company Commander, a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4) (Oberstleutnant), is also the head of the Bundeswehr Commando Course training programme (Pritzsche, 2013).
PART FIVE: MISCELLANEOUS
The Bundeswehr’s Commando Course is open to all male and female commissioned and enlisted personnel of the Bundeswehr. The Bundeswehr’s Commando training seeks to attract determined, highly-motivated, intelligent, reliable and physically fit individuals to serve with the Commando community. This article provides the basic information to allow individuals to make an informed judgement before applying for the Bundeswehr’s Commando Course.
5.1 TV Documentaries
First aired in 2013, the German documentary series ‘Hartetest Extrem’ in Season 2 provided viewers with an insight to the world of the Bundeswehr Commando Course (Fernsehserien.de, 2013).
The three, 50 minute, episodes aired between July and August 2013 attempt to convey the difficulties encountered by the candidates during their training, as well as explaining what the course is about.
5.2 Useful Publications
- Elite Attack Forces. German Elite Forces: 5th Mountain (Gebirgsjager) Division and the Brandenburgers (Special Forces) by Mike Sharpe and Ian Westwell, first published in 2008 by Compendium Publishing.
- German Special Forces of World War II (part of Osprey’s Elite series) by Gordon Williamson, first published in 2009 by Osprey Publishing Ltd.
- Kommando Spezialkräfte 3 – Division Spezielle Operationen (German Edition) by Heinz Duthel, first published in 2015 by Books on Demand.
- Kommando Spezial-Kräfte by Reinhard Scholzen, first published in 2009 by Motor Book.
- GSG 9 by Reinhard Scholzen and Kerstin Froese, first published in 2001 by Motorbycuhverlag.
- Werner, L. (2013) Adaptive Reorganization of German Special Operations Forces. Master’s Thesis. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA620506. [Accessed: 25 July, 2016].
- Bundeswehr (2012a) Das Kommandofeldwebelanwärterprogramm. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.deutschesheer.de/resource/resource/MzEzNTM4MmUzMzMyMmUzMTM1MzMyZTM2MzEzMDMwMzAzMDMwMzAzMDY4MzU3MDYyNmQ2NzMyNzMyMDIwMjAyMDIw/Das_Kommandofeldwebelanwaertermodell.pdf. [Accessed: 27 July, 2016].
- Bundeswehr (2012b) Eignungsfeststellungsverfahrens Teil 1. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.deutschesheer.de/resource/resource/MzEzNTM4MmUzMzMyMmUzMTM1MzMyZTM2MzIzMDMwMzAzMDMwMzAzMDY4MzM2Nzc3MzE2YTYzMzIyMDIwMjAyMDIw/KSK%20Brosch%C3%BCre%20Eignungstest%20Teil%201.pdf. [Accessed: 27 July, 2016].
5.3 Useful Links
- Bundeswehr Commando Course (Einzelkämpferlehrgang):
- Special Forces Untold Stories: German GSG-9 (2002).
- Official KSK Website:
- Federal Ministry of Defence:
- German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr):
- Bundeswehr Commando Course (Einzelkämpferlehrgang):
- German Navy’s Maritime Medicine Institute (Schifffahrtmedizinisches Institut der Marine):
Pritzsche, N. (2013) Der Einzelkämpferlehrgang: Belastungen Aushalten, Soldaten Führen. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.bundeswehr.de/portal/a/bwde/!ut/p/c4/NYvBCsIwEET_KNugInozFqR482LrpWzbpQTTJGw39uLHmxycgXd5M_CCXI8fO6PY4NFBC91oz8Omhm0ihW9J5BytCtPaT8S9cIqR4FmOeTAGT1Io5MVmzowSWMXA4opJzNkoO0FX6droY_WP_p5Me73dd4d93ZgHxGW5_ADsL6b0/. [Accessed: 05 September, 2016].
Fernsehserien (2013) Härtetest Extrem. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.fernsehserien.de/haertetest-extrem/episodenguide/staffel-2/21988. [Accessed: 05 September, 2016].