August 1971, after completing my apprenticeship as a window dresser, I joined the German Armed Forces for eight years. For the first two years I was in Munich at the Pioneer School and learned everything about building bridges, handling all types of explosives, blasting itself and much more. In 1973 I switched to the armored troops in Hemer in Sauerland, where the 100th Armored Regiment was stationed in the Blücher barracks. In the photo I’m just 21 years old.
The first thing I did was get all my driving licenses for motorcycles, cars and trucks with trailers. I then became a tank driver, commander and instructor for the US. Bridgelayer M48 ALVB trained. In our unit of the Panzerpionierkompanie 100 we had three of these monsters. I was the leader of this bridge group and responsible for the training of the drivers, as well as for the maintenance and care of the three Americans.
And since the beginning of 2022 there has also been an excellent 1:35 kit of this device.
In addition to technical training on the vehicle and driving off-road, the training of tank drivers also included loading the bridge layers onto railway wagons of the German Federal Railways. The bridge was placed on a wagon and lashed down with chains, and the tank also stood on a wagon. The railroad loading manager used a ruler to check how far the chain and bridge protruded over the edge of the wagon, which was always a matter of millimeters. The person in overalls and with my right arm raised is me, I already had the rank of non-commissioned officer.
And it was interesting. In the second half of 1974 I was on a course at the pioneer school in Munich for three months. There I was trained on the “Biber” armored express bridge and acquired the driving and teaching license there. After passing the course, I was promoted to staff sergeant at the end of the year. On April 25, 1975, the 100th Tank Regiment became the 20th Tank Brigade and we pioneers became the 200th Tank Engineer Company.
Back from Munich, four “Biber” were delivered weeks later. Every 14 days a vehicle with a bridge always arrived at the station in Hemer. We unloaded the tanks, assembled the bridges with a recovery tank and drove up to the barracks. At that time I was the only one who was allowed to move these vehicles. But a short time later, when the first soldiers with a class 2 driving license came out of the driving school, I started training. Now we were able to keep up with the Leopard tanks of the other companies in free-running manoeuvres. The three M48 ALVB came into the depot. My service in Hemer ended in 1978, I moved back to Marl with my family that year, where we came from, and started a new job at the Jani Gasttransport company, which had set up a branch in Marl. More about that in the link above – truck driving.