Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers
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German reservists reached next level of employers support

May, Berlin/ Germany: The German Reserve Association invited national decision makers from political, business and military world to discuss the current developments on the reserve issue. Over 100 hundred guests followed the invitation to the headquarter of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The atmosphere among the participants was breaking up. Already at the beginning all panel participants agreed unison that today reservists have to face huge challenges.

Dr. Hans-Juergen Schraut, Vice-President in the German Reserve Association and responsible for the department Business and Work Life, opened the event and the adjacent panel discussion. Mr. Schraut is well known from many CIOR activities, e.g. as former President of the organization from 2004-2006 and at least he moderated the panel discussion at last years summer congress in Istanbul on the employer support issue. In his introducing statement Mr. Schraut mentioned that the transformation of the German Armed Forces after the end of the cold war and since the enlargement of tasks will be a challenge for both active soldiers and reservists. The efficient integration of reservists within active units requires new concepts to combine civil and military life.

This strikes with results of a latest study of the Armed Forces which analyzed the current relation between employers and reservists and which concluded with the existence of areas of conflicts between military, work and civilian life for reservists. On the one hand reservists often have to explain their voluntary based military commitment to their employers without any support of the Armed Forces. On the other hand the employers support can be described as uninterested, even dismissive. This development can be seen as a social-political result from the end of the cold war and describes the country’s society attitude. The German Armed Forces have realized that they have to play a more active role on communication and that they have to consider interests of both the employer and the reservists.

The panel discussion was moderated by former Chief of Defence Gen. (ret.) Hans-Peter von Kirchbach, who himself introduced to the panel discussion with a personal moment reminding a CIOR-congress in 1992, where he got in contact with specific reserve issues for the first time.

The social-political issue was picked up by the two high representatives from the business world participating on the panel. Klaus-Peter Mueller, Chairman of advisory board of Commerzbank AG in the rank of 1st Lieutenant in reserve stated that in Germany “reservists are established as unknown beings!” Whether the employer nor the Armed Forces don’t know exactly what the reservist is doing in both worlds. From his point of view it is time to start a direct dialogue between employers and forces due to an ongoing process of demographic challenges. Dr. Stefan Zoeller, Board Member of EADS and CEO Germany in the rank of Private First Class built a bridge between military missions and the direct and indirect economical efforts. The business world has to see the efforts resulting from forces and thus from reservists. For EADS each reservist bring new input into the company. A training call is seen as a continuing education and therefore the company need reservists and it wants reservists.

Lt. Gen. Johan-Georg Dora, Vice Chief of Defence, responsible for all reservists in the German Armed Forces started with self-criticism on two major points. Firstly, the Armed Forces have to rethink about their mentality on reservists. And secondly “we should stop being cautious to promote the Armed Forces and their relevance to the society in a defensive way.” Therefore he claimed to get in contact with the leaders of the top 30 companies of the DAX, the German stock exchange.

Christian Schmidt, Parliamentarian State secretary to the Minister of Defence, admitted that also within the administration of the Armed Forces caveats concerning reservists exist. He encouraged the Reserve Association to establish ideas to prevent prejudices. He also welcomed to the newly established data-base for reservists on the website of the association.

The result of the evening is impressive and simple: It is time to start education and promotion on the Armed Forces and reservists. All participants assured to make progress on the reserve issue. The results will be evaluated on a panel next a year.

The German example is just a part of the daily work of CIOR. Many NATO member and partner nations are undergoing transformation from conscription to professional Armed forces. This, combined with an increasing number of overseas deployments, carries the risk of creating a “disconnect” between society and its defence. It is more and more recognized that reservists are key contributors to promoting defence attitudes within the civilian Society. When a country supports the organization, it is investing in the development of national Reservists, the international Reserve community, as well as contributing to NATO. As an international association CIOR offers a relevant platform to exchange best practices across nations and for the cooperation of relevant decision makers and academics.

CIOR’s mission is to forge links between reservists and NATO military authorities; to encourage the establishment and proliferation of ties among Reserve officers from participating countries; and to work to encourage those nations to offer reservists similar duties, rights, equitable training and mobilization obligations, while respecting their differences and national traditions. The Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) is sanctioned and formally recognized by NATO to assist and advise on reserve affairs. It is the world’s largest military reserve officer organization and represents the interests of over 1.3 million reservists across 36 participating nations within and beyond NATO.

The upcoming Summer Congress, which CIOR holds together with NATO´s National Reserve Force Committee (NRFC) and Confederation Interallied Officier Medical des Reserve (CIOMR) in Sofia, Bulgaria, will focus on the challenges in recruiting and retention of reservists.

© 2012 Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers