June 2010

Our basic training with the German Armed Forces started on May 3, but since we wanted to take care of several organizational issues as well, we already headed to North Rhine-Westphalia a week earlier. Sometimes it does get complicated when you don't have a permanent address anywhere in Germany. At the moment, we have parts of our stuff in Wuppertal at our father's, another part is in Lyon, the probably biggest part is situated in our car. Since we wanted to practice in Dortmund that week, however, we were initially facing a little problem: our rooms in Dortmund have already been given to other people, but we had also left a few of our things there, and it's a bit exhausting to always commute to Dortmund from our childhood home in Sprockhövel (near Wuppertal). After all, this was exactly the reason why we decided to move to Dortmund 7 years ago. We received many kind offers by skating friends in Dortmund to stay with them, so each of us did find a nice sleeping accommodation after all.

Mr. Skotnicky visited and took a look at our newly created Free Dance, and besides taking care of an endless amount of things (tax return, bank stuff, annual sports medical examination, German Armed Forces in Cologne, etc...), we could also finally visit our family and friends again. We were cordially received at the rink, and even though it makes you a bit sad, it somehow is a really nice feeling to know that you've been missed.

On Monday morning at 4 a.m., we once again took off with a car that was packed all the way (and with only one side mirror because somebody broke it off at night, for the second time in one week) to get to Dillingen. It is required to arrive in your dress uniform when you first report to the German Armed Forces. Since we didn't feel like wearing those for the entire trip, we stopped on a field behind some bushes shortly before our arrival and changed there, hidden by the bushes. Or so we thought. It wasn't until later that we noticed that this exact spot on the field offered a perfect view of us from a different side and that every car that drove past must have seen us. With an unpleasant feeling in the stomach and a beret that looked like a baker's cap, we drove to the barracks. Carolina already completed half of the recruit training last year, and therefore she knew exactly how everything comes down to the goodwill and the attitude of the trainers and supervisors. She was relieved to find out that most of her former trainers still worked there and even remembered her. Moreover, we're really lucky and get along so well with the other athletes. For the coming 2 months, we were supposed to complete our training almost exclusively with other competitive athletes from the sports support program. The largest part of our platoon had already started their training at the beginning of April and therefore only stayed with us for the coming 4 weeks. All in all, we were 10 women and 32 men the first month, with one ice hockey player tearing a ligament very early when he was playing soccer, so, like Carolina, he may have to start all over again after one year. In our B (as in Bravo) part of the platoon (everyone who started in May), we're together with ice hockey players from different clubs in Germany, including one female ice hockey player. For our second month, we're joined by three more ladies who are regular soldiers with a kind of trial period; they thus don't have the option to complete a shortened basic training (like us) and have to do 3 months. The German Armed Forces often integrate women who have signed up with the military into the athletes' platoon in order to avoid that they'd be the only women somewhere amongst 35 men.

Last year, Carolina was together with Peter Liebers and Philipp Tischendorf, this year we're together with Maylin Hausch. However, she also started in April and thus finished prior to us.

Daniel was still relatively nervous during the first few days. According to the stories that Carolina had told him from last year, this promised to be far from any laid-back basic training. Furthermore, he specifically cut his hair (down to approx. 2 cm) to be quicker in the morning since he had already been reprimanded twice here. In the beginning, Daniel was once so nervous when learning the military salute that he got sent out of the room to calm down outside. In addition, we were both super excited about one thing: for a good 11 years, we've been on the ice together six times a week, and this was meant to be the first break that takes longer than 4 weeks.

The daily routine is relatively simple. At 5 a.m., you're "kindly" woken by loud shouts and have to fall in for roll call. After all, it could be the case that somebody snuck out at night to party or something like that and didn't make it back in time. Besides, everyone can report sick then to get permission to see the doctor in the morning. Sadly, the early morning exercises were abolished for us because you can't expect a ski jumper to do 30 push-ups anyway, and he isn't allowed to bulk up or his performance would suffer. The trainers have been specifically instructed for leading our platoon and they are requested to refrain from doing anything with us that might considerably endanger our physical health. After having a wash, you head to breakfast together at 6 a.m. and then begin training afterwards. Besides lots of military education, such as reading a map and a compass to orientate in a terrain, and practical exercises, we also receive a week-long training for combat medics that provides us with the necessary skills to provide first aid in an accident. Whether burn wounds, fractures, or a stroke – we learn how to do the right thing. In addition, the German Armed Forces attach great importance to the political education of their soldiers, so we've already had exciting discussions on the German Constitution and other values and norms of society. Furthermore, we've already had a sports test in the first month. With some pride we can report that the two of us were the best of the Bravo part of the platoon.

Lunch takes place at 11 a.m. and dinner as early as 4:30 p.m. Afterwards, there's non-duty time until 9 p.m. when there's another roll call, after which we clean our rooms. When we started the basic training, our greatest concern was the risk of injury. After all, we're learning movement sequences here that are completely new to some extent, whereby the general risk increases significantly. Last year, Peter Liebers broke his metatarsal bones and Daniel Wende returned injured from his recruit training, too. However, both of them injured themselves while playing soccer during the non-duty hours.

It stands to reason that you bottle up a lot of energy in such a planned out daily routine that's interrupted by many small breaks. While Carolina uses this energy to diligently study the room folder (her nickname here is overachiever), Daniel prefers to hang around in the corridor, which has already led to reprimands now and then.

On weekends, Carolina often stays in the barracks since she has to pay for any journeys herself and the travel costs would add up to quite a lot. Daniel is currently undertaking his mandatory military service and is therefore allowed to make trips home with the Deutsche Bahn railways at no charge. But since other athletes usually stay in the barracks, too, time flies even faster than it already does on duty. Of course we're very much looking forward to going back on the ice, but some distance once a year is often better than only focusing all the time.

We were both lucky with the room assignments, too. While Daniel has to share the room with only one other soldier, Carolina was assigned to a large six-bed dormitory. At the beginning, they were indeed six people living there, but after the first platoon left, she inhabits the room together with an ice hockey player. Daniel shares his room with Sinan Akdağ, an ice hockey player for the Krefeld Pinguine. They both get along well, and after Daniel did a few silly mistakes in the beginning and had to learn what it means to receive an order, he has now become room leader.

In the next few weeks, Daniel has enough time to learn how to speak slowly and properly, and not to fidget about so much, and to give duly reports. Let it be mentioned that, according to his own report, Daniel's helmet has been "irrevocably destroyed" and he "kindly asks for replacement." Wordings that don't fit into military language use at all. This was also one of the reasons why Corporal Carolina Hermann (Carolina has the highest rank in our platoon, whereas Daniel only has the second highest rank as Private First Class) is always the only one in command when the platoon is allowed to undertake tasks autonomously. It probably goes without saying that this is a chance to resurrect certain bottled-up differences that we siblings had in the past. In order to put this straight, Carolina had Daniel unwrap the cheese spread and isolate the cheese from the aluminum foil during a first authorization to autonomously dispose of the garbage (waste separation is a priority with the German Armed Forces and with Cpl. Hermann). In another situation, Corporal Hermann had to inspect Private First Class Hermann's locker layout. She could have just pointed out a wrongly placed helmet, but instead, PFC Hermann served for what must have been the most meticulous and most thorough locker inspection of the entire basic training.

Admittedly, Carolina has to face some problems, too. Ever since one part of the platoon left, there are only 5 female soldiers and about 500 male soldiers in the entire barracks. Cpl. Hermann is probably the best-known of all 5 female soldiers. Besides cell phone numbers at the windshield (let's assume that "Tom" meant Carolina, not Daniel) and many, very many glances, Carolina is trying hard not to attract too much attention. One of our supervisors once described the situation as follows: "I'm really sorry, Cpl. Hermann, but I'll soon have to send you to your meals in a balaclava." Naturally, this also has its advantages. It's very rare that Carolina has to show her identification to the guards, and Daniel quickly gets a special treatment, too, when he mentions that Cpl. Hermann is his sister.

A positive surprise is the food. We're both a bit picky about our food choices, not only because we're vegetarians. Carolina also likes to feed on salads, while Daniel prefers food that is rich in carbohydrates. Still there's almost always a dish for each of us that meets our expectations.

We'll soon have made it through the basic training and will then return to Lyon to fully prepare for the new season. We've already received a letter that we're part of the B team envelope, which we're very happy about. Moreover, our spots in the German Armed Forces have been renewed for another year.

Best wishes,

Carolina and Daniel

P.S. We would have liked to show you some pictures in this journal entry, but it's prohibited to take pictures in the barracks without prior permission. :(




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