A One-year volunteer, short EF (de: Einjährig-Freiwilliger), was, in a number of national armed forces, a conscript who agreed to pay his own costs for the procurement of equipment, food and clothing, in return for spending a shorter-than-usual term on active military service and the opportunity for promotion to Reserve Officers.
The "one-year volunteer service" (de: Einjährig-Freiwilligen-Dienst) was first introduced 1814 in Prussia, was inherited by the German Empire from 1871 until 1918, and was also adopted in the Austro-Hungarian Army from 1868 until 1918. One-year volunteers also existed in the national armies of Bavaria, France and Russia.
In the Prussian Army, the "one-year volunteer service" was open for enlistees up to the age of 25. These enlisted soldiers were usually high school graduates (i.e. those who had passed the 9th Grade Matura or 13th Grade Abitur examinations), who would opt to serve a one-year term rather than the regular two or three-year conscription term, and who would be allowed a free choice of service branch and unit, but who were obliged to equip and support themselves at their own expense throughout. In today's monetary value this cost might equate to at least 10,000 Euros, which restricted the option to members of the affluent social classes, considered to be "officer material", who hoped to pursue a Reserve-Officer career path. The aim of restricting the pool of Reserve Officers in this way was explicitly expressed by Emperor Wilhelm II. Eligibility for the one-year route of military service was a privilege conferred after examination of the enlistee's suitability and academic qualifications.
On completing their primary recruit training and shorter military service term, those aspiring to become Reserve Officers would have to qualify and demonstrate suitability for promotion to the Gefreiter ("Lance Corporal") rank, and would then continue to receive further specialized instruction until the end of their one-year term, usually attaining and leaving as überzählige Unteroffiziere (German > "Under Corporals") with the opportunity to advance further as Reservists. Enlistees who did not aspire to officer grade would leave at the end of their one-year term as Gemeine (Ordinary soldier) enlisted rank (for example Musketier or Infanterist) and a six-year reserve duty obligation.
The Austrian Bundesheer still recruits their reserve officers from one-year volunteers. It also uses this means to assess the suitability of aspirant officers to begin specialized studies in "military command and control" (C2) at the Theresian Military Academy in the Wiener Neustadt.
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- Duden; Definition of "Gemeine", in German.