Civilians on the Battlefield


ROSTOCK/HOHENFELS/BAGHDAD/LINZ (Own report) - With the procurement of thousands of "extras", German firms are helping the US Army in its military training for illegal combat missions in Iraq. The company "Firma DSS" in Rostock (Mecklenburg-West Pomerania) for example, is supplying civilians ("Civilians on the Battlefield") for maneuvers to prepare for deployment, in a war being waged in violation of international law. The "Firma DSS" prefers recruiting Iraqis, because of their knowledge of "traditions and habits" in the war zone. But also Afghans are being hired to play extras during the training for the deployment at the Hindu Kush. These maneuvers are being carried out on the Hohenfels (Bavaria) military compound, the second largest US military training center in Europe, after nearby Grafenwoehr. Washington is investing billions of dollars to expand both military installations. Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr are playing a central role in US planing for future combat missions in the so called war on terror. The German military (Bundeswehr) is also using these combat training centers to prepare for joint deployments.

Mission Preparation

The "Firma DSS" is providing 80 to 750 "extras" for military maneuvers of several weeks [1], thereby allowing, according to the company, "a realistic training to prepare US soldiers for the mission in Iraq", or Afghanistan or Kosovo [2]. The soldiers are to be "familiarized" with the "traditions, customs and habits" in the war zone and learn "the correct handling of the Iraqi/Afghani civilian population". Counter-insurgency is one aspect of the military maneuvers with civilians playing "vendors, coffee shop owners, artisans or demonstrators etc. to animate mock Iraqi villages." Trying to create the scenario as true to life as possible, the company in Rostock prefers the recruitment of Iraqis and Afghanis to play the civilians, for the training for military occupation.

Complete Infrastructure

Furnishing "extras" for US military war exercises had become a large scale venture already in 1999. The Bavarian "Optronic" company, alone, claims to have furnished more than 3.000 civilians to the US armed forces, in the period 1999 - 2005. Since 2003 - the year of the aggression against Iraq - the US military has been carrying out maneuvers in Germany with Muslims as "extras".[3] The Rostock enterprise "Firma DSS" has been in this business since 2006, taking over from "Optronic", since the director of Optronic was sentenced to four years in prison for exporting material to North Korea capable of producing nuclear weapons.[4] The "Firma DSS," has been cooperating with the US Army in Hohenfels since early 2004 in the "sector of personnel recruitment and services" - together with the eps GmbH, located in Cologne. Eps GmbH is providing the "logistics for the US Army during their maneuvers in Germany" with the "complete infrastructure - everything from tents, showers, toilets and food, to pencils, photocopy machines and paper".[5]

Important Employer

Business dealings with the US Army are the most important economic branches in the structurally weak regions around the military training grounds. The Hohenfels Combat Maneuver Training Center has 760 German employees, Grafenwoehr four times as many. In addition there are individual contracts such as the construction of a tunnel system, for simulating combat in Tora Bora (Afghanistan). In 2006 alone, Washington invested $100 Million in Grafenwoehr - with current investments reaching one billion dollars. The US Army is one of the biggest employers in the region, creating dependencies that hinder protest, for example, against the maneuvers' incessant noise pollution, a health hazard to the environing population.[6]

Dress Rehearsal

The combat maneuver training centers in Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr play important roles in the US global war strategy. With an area of approximately 234 km², Grafenwoehr is one of the largest military training areas in the world and the largest in Europe. Live ammunition may be used during maneuvers and more than 10,000 soldiers at times, are participating. Already during the Vietnam war, Grafenwoehr had been the most important training area for US troops in Europe. The aggression against Yugoslavia was also prepared on these grounds. In early 2003, a dress rehearsal for the invasion of Iraq was carried out in Grafenwoehr, with a large scale computer simulation and approx. 1000 officers participating. Grafenwoehr is still playing a central role for US war logistics. For example, one of the units that had helped raze Falludja to the ground, in late fall of 2004, had been flown in directly from Grafenwoehr. The US attack on Falludja is one of the most criticized US combat actions in Iraq.


Situated 50 km south west of Grafenwoehr, Hohenfels, with an area of approx. 160 km², is the second largest US combat maneuver training center in Europe. In Hohenfels, soldiers are not only trained for larger aggressions ("Major Combat Operations"), they are also instructed in special counter-insurgency techniques for the repression of rebellions ("Counter-Insurgency Operations"), including house-to-house combat and combat in cave like surroundings. The "counter-insurgency" training also includes combat against demonstrators in occupied territories: which is where the "extras", recruited by the "Firma DSS" and other companies, play "Civilians on the Battlefield". Alongside US troops, NATO units and soldiers from other non-NATO states, involved in the so called war on terror, are training in Hohenfels. For example, 140 soldiers from Georgia were trained for combat in Iraq at the beginning of this year.[7]

Close Affinity

The Bundeswehr, of course, is also training for combat in Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr. Already in 1957, a "Bundeswehr Liaison Commando" was installed in Grafenwoehr and, though the name has changed [8], it is still functioning today, providing the German army with "the possibility for firing and combat training both day and night".[9] In Grafenwoehr, German soldiers are training on a grand scale for their deployments in Kosovo and Afghanistan: The Bundeswehr speaks of approx. 100.000 "man-days" per year. Since the early 1990s, the German government has a larger share in decision making in Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels. For example, the German Defense Ministry must accord permission for maneuvers to be extended into the night or into the weekends.[10] Referring to the joint maneuvers for wars in Afghanistan and Kosovo, the Bundeswehr rejoices that "the closeness of the German -US American affinity" can "hardly be better felt" than on the two largest training areas in Europe.[11]


Whereas the war maneuvers and their logistic support are hardly noticed in Germany, protest is growing in Austria, where a few days ago, the "Firma DSS" from Rostock organized so called castings to recruit new "extras" for US maneuvers in southern Germany. This is perceived as a provocation, as one could hear at a protest rally in Linz: The law of neutrality is still in force in Austria, which prohibits the country from participation in armed international conflicts. According to a statement, "recruiters for armies at war - even if to recruit "extras" in war maneuvers - have no business being in Austria."[12]

[1] Gesucht: Araber aus Linz; Die Presse 23.11.2007
[2] Trainieren der amerikanischen Soldaten im richtigen Umgang mit der irakischen/afghanischen Zivilbevölkerung;
[3] Araber, bitte zum Casting!; Der Spiegel 09.02.2007
[4] Auf dem Schlachtfeld; taz 26.02.2005
[5] Referenzen;
[6] see also Hauptstützpunkt
[7] see also Freie Meinungsäußerung
[8] Es heißt seit 1997 "Dienststelle des Deutschen Militärischen Vertreters bei der Truppenübungsplatzkommandantur Grafenwöhr/Hohenfels (DMV/TrÜbPlK)".
[9] Deutscher Militärischer Vertreter - Truppenübungsplatz Grafenwöhr;
[10] Schießen seit fast 100 Jahren;
[11] Bundeswehr in Grafenwöhr: 50-jähriges Jubiläum am Truppen­übungsplatz Grafenwöhr;
[12] "Kriegscastings" für die US-Armee im Hotel Steigenberger in Linz; Pressemitteilung der Werkstatt Frieden und Solidarität Linz 22.11.2007