In the last week of April, the town hall in Alsfeld in the Vogelsberg district serves as a rest stop for military travelers. The Hessian state command's exercise takes place in the province, but has an international dimension. “Steadfast Defender” is the name of the major maneuver in which a total of around 100,000 soldiers from all NATO countries train for transatlantic and intra-European defense for six months.

The Bundeswehr is taking part in the “Quadriga” exercise with around 12,000 soldiers. The resulting troop movements in April and May will also take place in Hesse, because the large motorways and railway lines that run through the transit country would also be indispensable in the event of a defense.

If troops and equipment have to be moved from the west of the continent to the east, there is hardly any way around Hesse given its geographical location and major highways. This results in the task that the state command is currently working on. The unit, which consists of around 110 professional soldiers, is hardly known to the general public. Under the leadership of Brigadier General Bernd Stöckmann, it cooperates with the state government as well as civil authorities and organizations in all questions of civil-military cooperation.

Training all over Germany

A homeland security regiment, which consists largely of reservists, is subordinate to the state command. This also includes unused forces. The home guards can, for example, support active troops in guarding and securing Bundeswehr properties, facilities and facilities and can also be used in disaster relief.

Stöckmann can currently rely on a total of 360 reservists. In addition, according to him, more than 2,300 civilians have now responded to the state command's call from last fall to prepare for a defense event within this framework. With them, the homeland security regiment is to be officially reorganized on October 1st. Given Hesse's average size compared to the other federal states, the number of volunteers who came forward was significantly above expectations and was “exemplary,” says Stöckmann.

The Hessian Homeland Security Regiment is one of six such units throughout Germany. The mission is to protect the infrastructure when the active troops have to carry out military tasks, such as those currently being trained within NATO with the participation of the Bundeswehr. These maneuvers are the reason for the homeland security exercise “National Guardian”. Training is being carried out in all parts of Germany on how, for example, ammunition and material depots, seaports, loading stations, bridges and troop transfer points can be secured.

Uncertainties regarding German infrastructure

The Hessian contribution is the “Convoy Support Center” in Alsfeld. 60 members of the Homeland Security Regiment will secure the hall, where passing soldiers with large trucks will stop. They are supported by the state police. In addition, they cooperate with civil-commercial service providers who take care of the supply of the troops in the narrower sense.

There is a workshop in the hall for repairing minor technical damage to vehicles and the possibility of medical treatment for injuries to soldiers. To his knowledge, the cooperation with external providers in this context is unprecedented, says Stöckmann. If it proves successful, this form of cooperation could be a blueprint for such institutions throughout Germany.

However, the exercises at the different levels only make sense if there is clarity about the infrastructure on the basis of which the deployment and supply of troops could take place in the event of a crisis. During the Cold War, for example, yellow boards on motorway bridges showed the exact load-bearing capacity of the structures. These signs “fell victim to the peace dividend,” reports Stöckmann. Given the global political situation, national and alliance defense “has not been seen as a priority” for years. Now it’s about “refocusing”.

Additional “Convoy Support Centers” planned

To this end, the Territorial Command of the Bundeswehr, which was founded after the “turning point” proclaimed by Chancellor Olaf Schulz (SPD), is currently developing the “Operations Plan for Germany”. It should range from the protection of infrastructure to national territorial defense and include civilian partner organizations of the Bundeswehr, authorities as well as states and municipalities.

With this in mind, Stöckmann is currently holding talks with the district administrators whose districts are located on the major Hesse motorways. For example, it will be clarified which routes and bridges are suitable for the relocation of troops and heavy equipment or which still need to be upgraded, and where additional “Convoy Support Centers” can be set up.

Such plans already exist, assures Stöckmann. But they would have to be updated and digitized. In his conversations, he says he has noticed a significantly increased need for well-founded information since the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. In his opinion, there is also greater curiosity among the population than before. It's not about foreign missions or abstract topics, says Stöckmann, but about “protecting your own homeland.”

30776 74941 49251 62275 31674 28186 29145 92304 79815 34762 06989 35270 13255 09477 79011 01932 68983 16713 21647 47519