German special forces mistaken for terrorists after training mix-up in Arizona

Justin Huggler
·2 min read
German soldiers wearing facemasks (file picture) - Jens Meyer/AP
German soldiers wearing facemasks (file picture) - Jens Meyer/AP

German special forces soldiers on a training mission in the US nearly caused a diplomatic incident earlier this month, it has emerged.

The German unit’s insistence on secrecy went badly wrong when a local hospital contacted the FBI over fears they could be extremists planning a terror attack.

Germany’s Special Forces Command (KSK) holds regular freefall parachute training in the small Arizona town of Eloy, just south of Phoenix, because of the clear weather conditions.

The training takes place with the agreement of the US authorities and the German army has posted several videos from previous years on social media.

But the fact the training is not a top secret mission does not appear to have fully registered with two of the special forces soldiers.

The soldiers in question were sent to the local hospital to inquire about medical facilities in the event any member of the unit was injured. But when they were asked to show their IDs they refused and instead produced Nato movement orders, which alarmed the hospital staff.

The hospital called in the FBI, which contacted the German embassy in Washington.

The whole incident descended further into farce as it became clear the special forces were so wedded to being secretive that they hadn’t even informed their own embassy they were going to be in the US.

The mix-up was reportedly only cleared up after several phone calls between Washington and Berlin.

“At the beginning of February, two German soldiers asked a US hospital about the possibilities of support in the event of jump injuries. This probably raised concerns among hospital staff, as the soldiers identified themselves with Nato orders which were unfamiliar to them,” said a spokesman for the German army.

“The hospital is understood to have informed the American security authorities. Ultimately, the matter was clarified through the German embassy.”

The incident is less serious than others involving the KSK in recent years.

The unit was partially disbanded after far-Right sympathisers were found in its ranks last year, and it is facing new allegations that commanders turned a blind eye to troops stealing ammunition.

It is not known whether the soldiers involved in the Arizona episode faced any disciplinary action. But one consequence is that the KSK has been ordered to register all future trips to the US with the German embassy.