In 2004 I was in the Bundeswehr (German Army). I wasn’t drafted - there was still compulsory military service at that time - I volunteered. I had the stupid idea that you could make a career there. It was one of the worst mistakes of my life.

I ended up in the PANZERGRENADIERBATAILLON 122, Grenzland-Kaserne in Oberviechtach. I “survived” 3 months of basic training, during which the instructors beat our psyche. At the end of the basic training, only half of the men in my platoon were still there. The other half was cancelled, mainly for psychological reasons. At first I was proud that I had “survived”, but little by little I understood that this was exactly what had flipped a switch in my brain. Not a good one. Years later I still had nightmares. Worst nightmares. Even today, 16 years later, I still think about it now and then. Yes, I can laugh about many things, I have probably repressed many things, but the subconscious knows better.

It was hell on earth for me. But then, after 3 months of hell nothing more. Almost boredom. It was a difference like day and night. I was employed in the office. Yes, I was busy, but suddenly nothing was like before. The pressure was gone for the most part. At that point, absolutely incomprehensible.

After 9 months of basic military service, I quit. I had had enough of it. Maybe because I ended up in the wrong place. Maybe because I was too weak. I can’t say for sure. But I and the Bundeswehr had no future together, even though my dad liked his many years in the Bundeswehr very much. He’s just a tough guy after all.

There are endless stories to tell about those 9 months. Friends of mine “like” to hear them again and again. I then tone down a lot of things, often only telling half of them. I don’t want to shock them any further.

For example: During the 3 months of basic training I hardly had time to eat anything. They hardly let us eat or sleep. And one day. We were allowed to sit down and eat. Spaghetti, there was delicious spaghetti. We wolfed it down. One plate, two plates. And suddenly the sergeant stood up, said “Shoulder your pack, run to the shooting range!” I think that was about 1-2 km. We ran. Many of us threw up. Undigested, long spaghetti hanging from their mouths and noses. I managed it without throwing up. A little later I saw the series Band of Brothers and I knew where this nonsense came from.

Basically it was about getting us angry. To make us small and to wear us down. A shame, they lost so many good people who might have had potential. Or don’t I understand that? Do only the toughest of the tough get ahead? Will they be screened out?

And another one: Disassemble the weapon, assemble the weapon. Over and over again. Me on the training meadow, lying down, my G36 assembled, disassembled, assembled… then it started raining, hailing. It felt like 2°C. It was heading for winter. At some point you can’t feel your fingers anymore. The clothes are completely soaked. Small parts of the weapon fall out of your fingers, disappear in endless hail. You are screamed at why you don’t carry on. You would be a failure.

My psyche still thanks you today.

Dominik Höcht @ohBananaJoe

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