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Swiss Army

Switzerland has a well regulated militia army. The armed forces have a small nucleus of about 4,200 professional staff, half of whom are either instructors or staff officers, with the remainder mostly being facility guards. Men on active service in Switzerlands militia army are allowed to keep their army-issue weapons at home but most are not allowed to keep army ammunition at home. The army has virtually no full-time active combat units but is capable of full mobilization within 72 hours. Women may volunteer to serve in the armed forces and may now join all units, including combat troops; currently 1,050 women are active-duty members of the Swiss military. Switzerland has been a Partnership for Peace (PfP) member since 2006. Switzerland has 220 military personnel deployed in support of KFOR peace-keeping operations in Kosovo.

In 2012, a total of 40,082 Swiss presented to the swiss army recruitment centers. 24,814 of them were fit for military service and 5,870 for the civil defense service. Thus, the suitability rate was slightly lower than in previous years and is 62 percent for military service and civil defense 14.5 percent.

At its annual meeting in Lugano 24 May 2017, the government's military, civil protection and fire brigade (RK MZF) approved a project proposal to examine the introduction of a compulsory orientation day for Swiss women. The decision, which also corresponds to an issue of the DDPS, was unanimous. Already women can participate voluntarily on the orientation day. With a compulsory, existing information deficits on the Swiss security landscape could be remedied. The voluntary nature of the military service for women was not discussed. The project, approved by the RK MZF, will examine the personnel, financial and legal feasibility of the introduction of a compulsory orientation day for Swiss women. According to the usual political approval processes, a possible implementation of the project would be expected at the earliest at the beginning of 2020.

Julius Caesar conquered this important region, and so later did the armies of the French Revolution. Aside from these conquests, Switzerland has been successful for most of its history in maintaining its independence - from the time of the founding of the Swiss Confederation in 1291 to the present This success has been due in part to the unique militia system that bonds the civilian and military features of citizenship so completely and effectively in Switzerland. All physically fit male citizens serve in the armed forces from age 20 to 50. Like the case in the ancient Roman Republic, the bearing of arms is the visible sign of full Swiss citizenship. The centuries-old tradition of compulstory military service for every physically fit male citizen has resulted in an intimate alliance between the people and the army, to an extent unknown in any other country.

The idea of general military service has not only sprung from the military principle of military preparedness of the country, but also from the constitutional principle of the equality of all citizens before the law. After finishing initial training, the young soldier returns home with his personal weapon,ammunition, equipment, and uniform. He is responsible for looking after them until he receiveshis discharge from the army at the age of 50.

Switzerland was neutral during World War II and, like Sweden, Switzerland found it difficult and dangerous to maintain that neutrality. On 30 August 1939, two days before Hitler attacked Poland, the Swiss Parliament confirmed General Henri Guisan as Commander in Chief of the Swiss Armed Forces. On September 1, when Germany invaded Poland, General Guisan went before the Government and asked for authority to mobilize the Army. It was ordered the same day, and by noon on 3 September, when Britain declared war on Germany, the Swiss Army of 435,000 (out of a population then of 4.2 million) was deployed for defense of the nation.

After the fall of France in June 1940, many people in Switzerland feared for their country's existence. They felt sure that where larger and more powerful nations had been unable to withstand the German military might, so too their tiny country would be condemned to a similar fate. At this time of despair, General Guisan quietly assembled all the senior Swiss Army officers in Rutli Meadow, the hallowed ground on which the Swiss Confederation had been founded in 1291. He inspired them with the courage to defend their country, to fight on to the last man, if necessary, in a national redoubt, and appealed to the concept of the Swiss as the guardians of the mountains, a mystical theme that recurs in Swiss literature. The effect was profound and energized the efforts not only of the Army but of the whole nation.

Adolf Hitler, who was not the easiest man to deter from committing acts of aggression, and who had annexed or attacked Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, and was yet to attack many other nations, was dissuaded from launching an invasion of Switzerland because he knew the German tiger would get a mouth full of quills if it bit into the Swiss porcupine. Even so, Switzerland was not completely spared a taste of the war in Europe. There were numerous dogfights between intruding German aircraft and defending Swiss aircraft in which the Swiss gave a very good account of themselves.

Upon the fall of France, thousands of French soldiers fled into Switzerland to be interned. British bombers, en route to bomb German and Italian targets, often violated Swiss airspace, were regularly fired upon by Swiss anti-aircraft fire, and sometimes mistakenly dropped bombs on Swiss territory. The United States also violated Swiss airspace and mistakenly dropped bombs on Swiss territory, for which the United States later paid reparations.

With an armed forces consisting at any given time of about 1,500 regulars and 18,000 recruits, Switzerland can mobilize ten times this number within 48 hours, a rapidity and thoroughness of mobilization that would be hard to equal by any other nation in the world. Switzerland receives a very significant amount of voluntary support from its citizens in defense related activities that do not show up in budget figures. This includes the tens of thousands of Swiss servicemen who take part in voluntary rifle competitions, ski maneuvers, and cross-country marches, etc., which they do without pay.

Swiss defense forces are equipped with modern weapons of either Swiss design and manufacture or those purchased from other Western countries. US security assistance for Switzerland provides the basis for the upgrade and modernization of Switzerland's air defense artillery and anti-armor forces. Prospective FMS cash or commercialsales have included: M-109 howitzers; Sidewinder, Stinger, and TOW missile systems; an anti-tankhelicopter, such as the AH-IS, 500 MD, or S-76; a transport helicopter such as the UH-60; and possibly the Patriot air defense system.

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Page last modified: 31-05-2017 15:02:43 ZULU