Long-range reconnaissance forces operate on their own for days on end, deep in the adversary’s territory. Their mission: observe and report. Chris is one of them. To master this challenge, he underwent three years of training.
“We are the eyes of the Army, deep behind the adversary’s lines,” says Chris, describing the mission of the long-range reconnaissance forces – his mission. Long-range reconnaissance forces operate in six-person teams and up to 150 km behind an adversary’s lines, in areas that reconnaissance drones cannot reach. In contrast to technological tools, which record only snapshots, the long-range reconnaissance troops are able to observe for longer periods of time as well as to detect, evaluate and report events.
Long-range reconnaissance forces are deployed in all climate zones and are completely on their own when on operations. They usually move on foot and avoid confronting the adversary, as they need to remain undetected. “It’s dangerous, but you already know what you’re getting yourself into. Thanks to our training and the strict selection process, we know that we can all count on each other,” says Chris.
A certain vibe
Chris began his Bundeswehr career as a conscript in 1 Light Infantry Battalion in Berlin in 2002. After basic training, he trained as a paratrooper in the Bavarian town of Altenstadt. It was there that he discovered his fascination with the Bundeswehr’s long-range reconnaissance forces and its special forces.
“I decided to join the long-range reconnaissance forces because I always saw them doing parachute jumps in Altenstadt. They definitely had a certain vibe. So then I thought: I might just give that a try.” In 2006, he started as a commando candidate in Pfullendorf, the training model at the time. Together with special forces applicants, he completed advanced individual training. The curriculum included marches, building concealed positions, radio communications, firearms training, rappelling and survival training. “That was essentially the first part of the selection process. We started out with 80 people. Six made it,” the 36-year-old recounts.
Giving up was never an option
When he decided to join the long-range reconnaissance forces, Chris also had to change to the senior non-commissioned officer career track. Training for the long-range reconnaissance troops includes parachuting, marksmanship, survival and close-quarters combat, among other things. “You are constantly out of doors and always under pressure to prove yourself. Training is demanding, but doable. Giving up was never an option,” Chris recalls.
The long-range reconnaissance teams are usually made up of noncoms, although a team is sometimes led by an officer. Three teams make a platoon. The Bundeswehr has four long-range reconnaissance platoons – two in 310 Airborne Reconnaissance Company at Seedorf and two in 260 Airborne Reconnaissance Company at Lebach. The long-range reconnaissance forces are assigned to the ISR Corps.
Specialists on the team
Every team member has an additional specialty. “The long-range reconnaissance forces have snipers, medics, JTACs, radio communication specialists and people who do optoelectronic special reconnaissance,” says Chris. Depending on personal preference, every soldier can choose a specialisation. “My English was decent, so they sent me to JTAC training in France.”
Joint terminal attack controllers – JTACs – coordinate air attacks from the ground, for instance. “We are there on order to direct and coordinate long-range fires to engage high-value targets, such as an adversary’s headquarters.”
Deployments are part of the deal
Chris was then stationed for six years in Pfullendorf as a long-range scout and JTAC. In that time, he deployed to Afghanistan three times for five months each – and became a father for the first time. “That was hard. I didn’t see a lot of my son for the first three years. But now with our second, I get to be home,” the long-range scout says, adding: “I signed up for this job. I knew if I joined the long-range reconnaissance forces and became a JTAC, I would go on deployments – those are part of the deal.”
He now works as an assistant section chief in long-range reconnaissance force development at the Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre in Cologne. “That was a sea change. Before, I was out on field exercises with weapons and equipment. And then all of a sudden, I’m at a desk fighting Windows and Excel,” Chris laughs. Of course, he is still in touch with his “family”, the long-range reconnaissance forces. Especially so as not to lose his expertise: “When you’re at a desk, you can very quickly no longer have any idea what you’re talking about if you’ve lost touch with how things really are.”