I joined the GDR Border Troops on November 4th, 1986 when I was 18 years old. I decided to enlist instead of getting drafted, not out of conviction, but in hopes of later getting an apartment authorization from the government. My term of service was for three years and the first stop was Perleberg, home of the Border Troops Noncommissioned Officer Academy. At Perleberg, I underwent six months of basic and advanced training as a short-service NCO.
On completion of my training as a squad leader for border security, I was promoted to corporal (Unteroffizier) on April 21st, 1987. I was assigned as a brand-new NCO to 2nd Battalion, First Border Regiment. My new home was in the town of Lauchröden, located in the beautiful hills of Thuringia.
Soon enough, I discovered how tough it was to manage a quick trip to my home in Dresden. Twice a day bus service to the closest train station in Eisenach, border duty until early morning, no taxis! By train, the journey to Dresden took eight hours. I took off on pass early Friday morning and had to be back at the company on Monday at 0800.
Sunday night, I got back to Eisenach, where I was stuck until the first bus left for Lauchröden at 0600. There were taxis, but most of them couldn’t go into the restricted border area where my company was based. Every once in a while, you might luck out and find a taxi driver that had a card allowing him to travel into the restricted zone. In that case, I didn’t have to be back until Monday afternoon. Anyway, at dawn on Monday, I found myself standing there with other soldiers from my company, waiting for that first bus.
My company was based directly on the border. Our barracks were completely surrounded by a border security fence and a concrete wall. The fence stretched eastward up toward the Stechberg in the direction of the Göringen corridor, and to the west, it snaked off toward Sallmannshausen. The dog kennel was sited next to the vehicle garage, and we had an area with benches and a well for off-duty time.
Our barracks were right on the entrance of the village, which was secured by a swinging arm barrier. We carried out regular inspections of those coming and going and entry was only permitted with a special authorization. Who, what, when, were – it was all recorded in our logbook. Visitors had to be out of the border area prior to 1700.
In Lauchröden, there were two pubs, a youth club, a soccer club and a church. The village itself was was also secured by a border security fence, however this was taken out in 1987-88.
I recived the following certifications and training during my service:
October 4th, 1987: Command tower/U-700 radio.
June 3rd, 1988: Command tower/Border Signal Security Fence-80.
June 3rd, 1988: Authorization to lead border security forces as commander for border security in accordance with GDR Border Troops Regulation 718/0/005, revision 3.
Afterward, I was assigned as the squad leader of 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, 7th Company, First Border Regiment with additional duty as assistant platoon leader. My squad was cited twice as as an exemplary unit (Bestenabzeichen) during my service.
I wrote numerous letters home while in the Border Troops, all of which I still have today. I went home to Dresden on my last pass from August 4th-11th, 1989 and was hononorably discharged into the reserves as a sergeant (Unterfeldwebel) on August 25th, 1989.
During my tour of duty, I never had to use my weapon. From today’s perspective, I am relieved that this was the case.