FELDJÄGER: The Bundeswehr Police
For the last 20 years, the Feldjäger is one of the units which have seen most extensive changes and reorganization within the Bundeswehr. A dynamic and flexible formation for specialized tasks of military security has sprouted from a rigid and static Cold War era service.
Today the Feldjäger, as a part of support armed forces SKB (StreitKrafteBasis) operate in all branches and organized sections of the army, and with its 30 squads, covers the whole territory of Germany as well as combat forces of the Bundeswehr in peacekeeping missions and tasks in the hot spots all over the world (Afghanistan, Somalia, Kosovo). Deploying a special telephone number, the service stands constant alert for both civilians and military personnel, and is capable of responding to all tasks within the state borders in one or two hours. The primary task of the military police is to secure and protect the personnel, buildings, supplies, to controls and secures army traffic, to investigate criminal activity and misconduct within the army.
Unlike some similar services in other countries, like the Carabineri in Italy, Gendarmerie in France, Holland and Portugal, German Feldjäger has no jurisdiction towards persons who are not members of the military, except when they are found in protected military areas or zones, or it is necessary for a task completion (i.e. during establishing a military exclusion zone). In cases of criminal acts committed by civilians towards the military, the military police is not strictly limited to the area of a military exclusion zone (barracks, training grounds, etc.). A significant change since the Cold War is the need to send military police teams in operations and peacekeeping missions within the German military contingents in the Balkans (UNPROFOR, KFOR), Africa (The Horn of Africa, Chad), and Afghanistan (ISAF).
Before the German military policemen are sent to these unstable regions, all options and possible consequences must be taken into account. The modern conflicts are not conventional combat operations, but more like “no-war, no-peace“ conditions, which are in NATO terminology labeled as OOTWs – Operations Other Than War, and PSO – Peace Support Operations. These asymmetrical conflicts are characterized by fierce ethnic and religious fighting of the opposing forces, bloody civil wars, degradation of local civil institutions and security forces, rampage of paramilitary and rebel formations of armed civilians.
In these “twilight battlefields” with no clear fronts, with predominant guerrilla tactics and terrorist attacks, conventional armed forces with heavy equipment and armament are of little use. For this reason, it was decided to send more military police units , which are previously reorganized, rearmed and reequipped, and trained in different tactics which responds to the new and redefined tasks. A significant influx of new ideas for redefining the roles of the new German military police came from the experiences of first peacekeeping missions on the Balkans in the 90s. Based on these experiences, three units were formed within the Feldjäger Battalion: intervention units (Zugriffs), breaching and search teams (Durchsuchungskraften) and riot control squads (CRC).
Before they were deployed overseas for the first time, it was necessary to clearly define the legal status of these “army constables”. Is the German Army only a “guest” in another country, on which territory international forces are deployed, or it temporarily takes over the role of enforcing law and order? The first step was a legislation by the German parliament, (Bundestag) for deploying armed forces (Bundeswehr) to overseas missions, which gave birth to two separate documents – SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) and MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). According to German interpretations, one of the most important goals of their intervention in the Balkans was to secure peace and control the daily problems which may arise in the chaos of civil war. Murderers, violators, criminals, weapons and drug dealers, heads of clans, member of criminal groups, paramilitary formations had to be identified, localized and prevented in their endeavors.
With this purpose, they formed military police strike teams (Zugrifftrupps) combined with other army units of German Army contingent, which were assigned for interventions in the field, in the similar manner like SEK police teams in Germany. Besides, it was needed to conduct investigations in the field, the interventions had to be documented, evidence collected so they could be used in the court of law. However, the arrests of so called high value targets, which included warlords, leaders of paramilitary formations and persons suspected of war crimes, which were believed to be armed, were conducted by the army special forces, such is the KSK brigade.
Lessons learned abroad
In the beginning of KFOR peacekeeping operation in Kosovo in 1999, he problems German army units, including the Feldjäger had to face were many. Both civilians and paramilitary formations took part in a bloody ethnic conflict, with marauding bands, killings, attacks. International peacekeeping force KFOR (Kosovo Force) with their conventional fighting units and armor were ill-suited for such circumstances. At first in charge for its own troops only, the Feldjäger quickly gained the reputation of the crisis “firefighting brigade”, as they had passed the police training and were better equipped for tasks such is keeping the law and order.
The first interventions and raids were planned and conducted by the Feldjäger. Soon it was evident that without adaptation conventional military tactics cannot be applied in civilian environment. So, they started adopting techniques and tactics of special police SEK units in German federal states. However, there is one important difference. The SEK operates “at home” in the safe environment on the German soil, while the military police in Kosovo had to operate in usually hostile environment, filled with challenges like violence, crime, skirmishes. Before they engaged those issues, it was necessary to determine the legal aspect of these missions.
The additional problem facing the Feldjäger was the ethnic unrest, which could explode anytime, anywhere. Demonstrations, rallies, and organized violence caused KFOR troops many problems on several occasions. The apex was the March 2004 violence caused by ethnic Albanians, when whole Kosovo was on fire, and during which the KFOR forces, including the German contingent, were mainly secured within their bases and camps. It was an organized ethnic cleansing of the remaining Serb population. In the course of three days, 4,000 people were forced from their homes.
The new gear
Although since the Bremen riots in 1980 their equipment included protective helmets and riot shields, the 2004 unrest in Kosovo made it clear that they lacked complete anti-riot gear, teargas dispensers, rubber bullets and effective tactics for CRS situations (Crowd and Riot Control). After the March 2004 violence, the Federal Armed Forces Staff issued a document on the doctrine of German Army in CRC situations abroad, which made obtaining the much needed equipment possible. Among other things, special vehicles were ordered – water cannons based on DURO 3 YAK chassis. The new personal protection gear for troops consists of the fire resistant two piece suit, sub suit, protective helmet and gloves, knee pads, elbow pads, boots, rubber baton, gas mask and the body armor.
The new tactics includes so called echelon formation. On the first line, CRC units stand in ranks, heavily equipped and armored, with the main task to keep the rioting crown under control. At the same time, teams of spotters observe the situation, identify the leaders, the most aggressive persons and potential perpetrators. After that phase, the second echelon enters the fray – the intervention teams (Greiftrupps), which dynamically surge through the ranks in a wedge formation, enter the crowd and arrest the leaders and other targeted persons, dragging them away.
Their advance is usually supported by water cannons, teargas, rubber bullets and other non lethal weapons (NLW). The third echelon consists of teams of investigators, who gather evidence and documentation, further processing the persons in custody. These units are supported by the MP sniper teams, water cannons, firefighting and EMT teams, custody unit, translators. A water cannon when fully engaged develops up to 37 bar, which means it can literally be used in single shot mode, to disable and remove targeted persons within the group. The Feldjäger also train other army units in CRC techniques, so they can act as reinforcements in the course of need.
Images taken from: https://www.wikipedia.org/, http://www.militarypolice.de/