Wachbataillon

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Wachbataillon beim Bundesministerium der Verteidigung
WachBtlBMVg (V2).jpg
Insignia of the Wachbataillon (Gothic typeface "W")
Active 15 February 1957 - Present
Country Germany
Branch Bundeswehr Logo Streitkraeftebasis with lettering.svg Streitkräftebasis Bundeswehr
Type Army, Navy, Air Force, Jägertruppe (Army part)
Role Drill, ceremonial and guarding and security duties
Size 9 companies
Garrison/HQ StOKdo Berlin.jpg Standortkommando Berlin
Berlin, Siegburg
Nickname Protter or Protokollsoldaten
Motto Semper talis (always the same/great)
Commanders
Current
commander
Oberstleutnant Michael Krobok[1]
Insignia
Shoulder sleeve insignia of the Wachbataillon SichVersRgt BMVg.svg
Cuff title of the Wachbataillon Wachbtl.JPG
Beret badge of the Wachbataillon BW Barettabzeichen Wachbatillon.jpg

The Wachbataillon (full name: Wachbataillon beim Bundesministerium der Verteidigung (WachBtl BMVg) (Guard battalion at the Ministry of Defence)) is the German Bundeswehr's elite drill unit. The Wachbataillon is the largest battalion of the German forces with about 1,800 soldiers, split in two garrisons in Berlin and Siegburg. It consists of nine companies (see list below) and belongs to the Streitkräftebasis (Joint Service Support Command) of the Bundeswehr. The soldiers of the Wachbataillon often refer to themselves as Protter or Protokollsoldaten, meaning protocol soldiers.

Mission[edit]

German Wachbataillon soldiers on parade in Rome

The primary mission of the Wachbataillon is to perform the military honours for the German president, the German Chancellor, the Federal Minister of Defence and the Inspector General of the Bundeswehr during state visits or on comparable occasions.

In addition the Wachbataillon executes the Großer Zapfenstreich on special occasions (for example on the 50th anniversary of the Bundeswehr in front of the Reichstag in Berlin on the night of October 26, 2005) or takes part in (inter)national events like the ceremonial oath of the Bundeswehr ceremony, parades, military tattoos and shows with its drill team which is the best trained special unit of the battalion.

A secondary mission is to perform (ceremonial) guard duty at the Ministry of Defence and other high profile public places and protect and guard the members of the German government and the Ministry of Defence.

An additional secondary mission is securing and defending the alternate seat of the federal German government in conjunction with forces of the Federal Police. As a direct attack on Germany was seemingly no longer an urgent threat since the end of the Cold War, that mission has been seen until recently by most as a legacy role.

Recruitment[edit]

Wachbataillon personnel executing a Großer Zapfenstreich.
Wachbataillon personnel in Army uniforms perform the military honours for the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on 24 August 2012.
Wachbataillon personnel in Navy uniforms greet U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates as he arrives in Berlin on 25 April 2007.
Wachbataillon personnel in Air Force uniforms at the boarding of U.S. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama on Air Force One at the end of their visit to Germany on 19 June 2013.

Until recently, the Wachbataillon protocol- and security companies only admitted male personnel that had a body height ranging from 1.79 meters (5 ft 10 in) up to 1.93 meters (6 ft 4 in), normal eyesight and body weight and are generally in good health. Wachbataillon personnel are not allowed to grow beards and moustaches.[2][3]

Since 2009 the 1./WachBtl BMVg staff- and supply company has started to admit female personnel. In the Großer Zapfenstreich for Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in March 2011, the first female soldier was performing the role of torchbearer.[4] Until the end of conscription in Germany in July 2011, about 80 percent of Wachbataillon's personnel were conscripts.[5] The requirements for Wachbataillon personnel where relaxed to a body height ranging from 1.75 meters (5 ft 9 in) up to 2.00 meters (6 ft 7 in), no visible visual aids and having a good general fitness. In March 2012 the first female officer took command of a platoon of the Wachbataillon.[6]

The soldiers of the Wachbataillon are from all three German Armed Services (i.e. Army, Navy and Air Force) and have the uniforms from all forces at their disposal to be able to perform any drill mission on every occasion.

Equipment[edit]

For reasons of tradition the Wachbataillon is the only unit of the Bundeswehr still using the Karabiner 98k because the traditional Prussian rifle drills can be executed better with that historical weapon. In 1995 remaining swastikas and other Nazi-era markings were removed from these rifles, after criticism regarding the presence of such symbols on Wachbataillon kit by the SPD parliamentary party.[7] As of 29 October 2011 females are allowed to attain the demanding drill training with the Karabiner 98k rifle.

During normal day duty the Wachbattalion uses the Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle and other kit like the other units of the Bundeswehr. Since 2006 the 1./WachBtl BMVg is the last unit in the Bundeswehr using ten Feldhaubitze 105 mm guns in the role of salute guns.[8]

The silent drill team of The Citadel, The Summerall Guards, models its close-order drill routine after Wachbataillon's.

Tradition[edit]

The Wachbataillon has been granted exemption of the Traditionserlass and is thus continuing the traditions of the 1st Foot Guards and the Infantry Regiment 9 Potsdam, the only unit in the Bundeswehr to have such ties.[9] Veterans of these regiments are joined with active and former members of the Wachbataillon in the Semper Talis Union.[10]

Structure[edit]

The Wachbataillon with its required strength of 1,714 soldiers has actually regimental strength, but it remains a battalion sized formation in name. It is therefore by far the largest battalion of the Bundeswehr. It is stationed at the Julius Leber barracks in the center of Berlin and in the Brückberg barracks in Siegburg. Since 2001 the Wachbataillon is part of the Streitkräftebasis. The battalion is organized into nine companies (eight of them honor guard companies), of which the 8./WachBtl BMVg (8th Air Force Company) was reorganized on 1 July 2008.

List of Wachbataillon's companies[edit]

Company Duty of company Arm Stationed in
1./WachBtl BMVg Staff- and supply company Army Berlin
2./WachBtl BMVg Protocol- and security company Army Berlin
3./WachBtl BMVg Protocol- and security company Army Siegburg
4./WachBtl BMVg Protocol- and security company Navy Berlin
5./WachBtl BMVg Protocol- and security company Air Force Berlin
6./WachBtl BMVg Protocol- and security company Army Siegburg
7./WachBtl BMVg Protocol- and security company Army Berlin
8./WachBtl BMVg Protocol- and security company Air Force Berlin
9./WachBtl BMVg Security company Army: Jägertruppe
Air Force/Navy: provide a portion of the non-commissioned personnel
Berlin

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°33′23.68″N 13°19′09.84″E / 52.5565778°N 13.3194000°E / 52.5565778; 13.3194000