I‘ve been hesitant to post the stories that my father told me about his time in the military for a while now. He’s told me quite a few from his time as a conscript in the Bundeswehr of the mid to late 1980s, but he told these stories to me about ten years ago, usually when we were huddled infront of the barbecue on a snowy winter evening or at 1am in the kitchen after both of us had had way too much whiskey. So please beware that I might not be able to recall every bit of what he told me due to time and our excessive alcohol consumption when he told his stories. But rest assured that they are for the most part quite funny.
When my father got conscripted into the Bundeswehr, he joined the airborne troops or Fallschirmjäger. The way he described it, they were never really expected to be troops holding the line when the Soviets would come pouring across the German-German border, but rather act as a sort of raiding/recon/proto-special forces unit. What also meant was that during exercises, they’d almost always be assigned to the „Red“ team i.E. the OPFOR. While the „Blue“ Team was stuffed to the brim with armored and mechanized troops who would in the event of war have to step forward and take on the Soviets head on, „Red“ was comprised of everyone who wouldn’t have to do so.
So during one of these exercises, my fathers platoon was supposed to move around the flank of the „Blue“ team to probe for any weaknesses in their defense and at least recon their positions if that wasn’t possible. To do so, they would have to cross a somewhat large river. It wasn’t massive, but you definitely would get wet from head to toe while swimming across. But when they exited the woods close to the river, one of them spotted a gift from god! A bridge just a few hundred meters away! Excitedly, they all ran towards it. This would mean not having to swim across and they’d be faster doing it that way as well. What no one saw was the small Jeep with white markings on the opposite side of the bridge. They also didn’t spot the sign at their side of the bridge.
When they approached the bridge, a soldier wearing white markings exited the Jeep and ran across, yelling at them to stop and pointing at the sign. He was part of the „Whites“, meaning the Umpires who ran the exercise. When he approached them he yelled at them for not reading the sign before crossing. So they did. To their collective dismay, the sign read:
„This bridge is destroyed!“
Now as you all can probably guess, blowing up civilian infrastructure to play war is somewhat frowned upon by local civilian authorities, so putting up signs declaring the status of said infrastructure would have to make do, even though it can cause misunderstandings like in my fathers case. Defeated, they backed off and huddled together, complaining that they would now have to swim across. Then someone - and I can’t say that I know that it wasn’t my father, who has a habit of coming up with stupid but genius ideas - was struck by the good idea fairy.
For some reason they had paper with them. Everyone took a sheet and drew their pencils. After everyone duct-taped their sheet to their chest, they made another run at the bridge. The soldier who had walked back to this Jeep again ran towards them, angrily telling them to fuck off and questioning their ability to read. But this time my fathers platoon didn’t stop and instead ran past the soldier, grinning the entire time and pointing at their self-made signs, every one of which read:
„I am swimming!“
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