Germany 'Can't Explain' Use of Broomsticks Instead of Guns in NATO Exercise

German Boxer
A German Bundeswehr armed forces soldier looks out from a Boxer armoured personnel carrier at camp Marmal near Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan December 17, 2012. Fabrizio Bensch/ REUTERS

The German Ministry of Defence says it "can't explain" why its soldiers reportedly used broomsticks in place of machine guns during a NATO military exercise on Tuesday.

German media reported yesterday that soldiers painted broomsticks black to simulate gun barrels on Boxer armoured vehicles during an excercise in September.

A spokesperson from the German Ministry of Defence told Newsweek today: "I cannot confirm it but this was told to an inspector of the German army by a soldier when he visited the unit in January. The inspector hasn't seen it, but the soldiers told him."

He added: "This Boxer was a mobile headquarters so it was an HQ vehicle where a weapon is neither foreseen nor necessary. A mobile HQ will always be secured by security forces around it. Why the soldiers then should have mounted a broomstick we can't explain that."

The exercise took place in Norway and was carried out by NATO's Rapid Response Force (NRF), a high readiness multinational force which is supposed to be capable of deployment at short notice.

The battalion reportedly involved in the broomstick incident was the Panzergrenadierbataillon 371 - which is training as part of an even more high ready "Spearhead" force for the NRF, formed in response to the war in Ukraine.

There were also reports that 41% of the battalion's soldiers didn't have the pistols they would need for a rapid deployment, with other equipment shortages including MG3 machine guns and night vision goggles.

The spokesperson explained the German army has been operating a "dynamic availability management system" whereby the army would need just 75% of equipment for missions abroad, with equipment delivered to the right people at the right time. The battalion will now be fully equipped within a couple of days.

"There is absolutely no doubt that the German army can fulfil the task of a NATO Response Force Unit", he says.

"The soldiers made clear they want to have a weapon on the mobile HQ. Now we are thinking about fulfilling that wish, although it is not necessary."