Non-Commissioned Officer Candidates


The status of NCO candidates was denoted by the wearing of loops of NCO braid (tress) on their shoulder straps.  Up until 10 November 1943, NCO candidates were called Unteroffizieranwärter (NCO Aspirants).  On 10 November 1943 they were renamed Unteroffizierbewerber (NCO applicants).1

Only Mannschaften (those between the ranks of Schütze and Stabsgefreiter) could be NCO candidates (Unteroffizieranwärter).

uffan.gif (1483 bytes)

Private Soldiers
Mannschaften (Men)
Stabsgefreiter sgefmini.gif (971 bytes) Until 1942/43, an Obergefreiter with more than 6 years service wore a single chevron with a pip added.

sgef2mini.gif (971 bytes)

Obergefreiter gef2mini.gif (947 bytes)
Gefreiter gef1mini.gif (927 bytes)
gefmini.gif (926 bytes)


ncocan.jpg (70178 bytes)

Soldiers selected for NCO training did so at special NCO schools.

Promotion to NCO ranks was according to certain specifications in addition to the requirement for a vacancy to exist in the unit's table of organization.

From To  Requirement for Promotion
Combat Unit
 Requirement for
Other Field Unit
Schütze Gefreiter   gef1mini.gif (927 bytes) 4 months in combat unit
6 months total service
4 months in field unit
1 year total service
Otherwise, after 2 years
Gefreiter Obergefreitergef2mini.gif (947 bytes) 2 years total service 2 years total service Otherwise, after 3 years
Obergefreiter gef2mini.gif (947 bytes) Stabsgefreiter sgefmini.gif (971 bytes) 5 years (2 as Obergefreiter) 5 years (2 as Obergefreiter) Otherwise, after 6 years
(2 as Obergefreiter)
Any Mannschaften rank Unteroffizier 2 years total service 2 years total service  


Non-commissioned officer training fell under the purview of the Inspector of Army (Training and Education). In March 1944 this role was broadened in scope and renamed Generalinspekteur für den Führernachwuchs des Heeres (Inspector General for Potential Leaders). This position was subordinate to the Chief of Army Equipment and Commander of the Replacement Army. He was responsible for the standardized recruitment, training, and political indoctrination of all potential officers and non-commissioned officers. Among his other responsibilities was the oversight of the Non-commissioned Officer School Branch (Abteilung Unteroffizier-Vorschulen u. -Schulen)2

The training of potential officers and non-commissioned officers wherever it occurs, takes place either under the command or under the supervision of the Inspector General for Potential Officers and non-commissioned officers. His authority is restricted to supervision when this type of training takes place in establishments under the command of the Chief of Training, the Inspector General of Panzer Troops, or any Wehrkreis headquarters. Special-service schools and specialist training schools are under the command of the Chief of Training with the exception of the Schools for Panzer Troops, which are commanded by the Inspector General of Panzer Troops.3


Non-commissioned officers fell into two basic categories.

Those who enlisted for terms of 4.5 or 12 years were Active or Professional NCOs. Active NCOs could serve in regular units, or opt for specialized technical training. Ordinary NCO training was conducted at Army NCO Schools (Heeres-Unteroffizier-Schulen) and technical training at specialist training schools and special service schools (Waffen-Schulen). Before the war, NCOs who signed for 12 year terms were provided vocational training at the end of their service, this training was restricted in wartime to soldiers rendered unfit for further service due to injuries, etc.

The German Army considered the identification and training of suitable NCO candidates to be of vital importance in maintaining combat effectiveness. There were two routes to becoming a professional NCO. Volunteers could apply at 16.5 years of age, subject to selection, or enter the Army directly at 17 as an NCO Applicant (Unteroffizier-Bewerber). Some applicants would have had pre-Army training as junior cadets (Jungschützen) in Army noncommissioned officer preparatory schools (Heeres-Unteroffizier-Vorschulen). If already conscripted, serving soldiers could still enlist for 4.5 or 12 year terms, provided they had a good record and demonstrated leadership and instructional abilities. Conscripts had to serve at least one year, and were not accepted as NCO candidates until two years had passed. If accepted and within the age limits (for 12 year terms the soldier could not exceed 38 years of age by the end of the term, for 4.5 year terms the maximum age was 28) the soldier's battalion commander would appoint him NCO Applicant.

Conscripts promoted to NCO rank were designated Reserve NCOs. Reserve NCOs received training in NCO courses (Unterführer-Lehrgänge) conducted in either the Field Army or the Replacement Army. Conscripts considered acceptable as future noncommissioned officers and are considered for promotion, but who did not enlist for a definite service period, were appointed reserve noncommissioned officer applicants (Reserve-Unteroffizier-Bewerber) by their battalion commanders. They were normally trained at a Military District (Wehrkreis) NCO course and later in the war at Army NCO schools. Soldiers who did not enlist for long-term service but were accepted in technician training were designated as reserve noncommissioned officer technicians.


NCO Applicants in units of the Replacement Army attended NCO School. Until February 1944 the training period was 10 months, including 4 months of basic training. In February 1944 the NCO Schools ceased providing basic training, and applicant volunteer NCOs did their initial training with other recruits. Advanced NCO training was reduced to 5 months, and for some specialized branches 3 months. Generally by 1944 NCO candidates did six months of advanced training before promotion to Gefreiter and transfer to a field unit.

NCO Applicants in units of the Field Army took instruction at schools run by field headquarters (such as a divisional combat school) or a field NCO school (Feld-Unteroffizier-Schule) where field conditions were approximated to a much higher degree.

Soldiers who had enlisted for 12-year terms of service could opt to become Technicians (Sonderlaufbahnen), while some technical trades (medical technician, blacksmith, musicians) were open to those enlisting for 4.5 year terms as well. Most technical trades required professional backgrounds. Technicians did apprenticeships and courses of varying lengths at specialist training schools, and courses were often shorted due to the war, meaning soldiers would not emerge as full-fledged technicians and have to do supplemental training later on. Technicians included Supply, Ordnance, Weapon, Signal Supply, Pigeoneer, Fortress-Engineer, Fortress Maintenance, Medical and Blacksmith Technicians as well as Musicians.

Some NCOs received special training to perform specific functions, without being classified as Technicians. They could be trained in their own units or headquarters including on-the-job training and apprenticeships, or by special courses run by headquarters or in the field at divisional battle schools. Some of these functions included Hauptfeldwebel (Company NCO), Clothing Supply NCO, Company Clerks, Supply NCO, Gas Protection NCO, Mess NCO, etc.5


  1. Thomas, Nigel and Stephen Andrew The German Army 1939-45 (2): North Africa & Balkans (Osprey Publishing, Botley, Oxford, UK, 1998) ISBN 1-85532-640-X p.45
  2. Handbook on German Military Forces, pp.I-29 to I-32
  3. Ibid, p.I-69
  4. Ibid, pp. I-71 to I-74
  5. Ibid

Return to Articles page

© 2019-present