This is a difficult one for me, as I’m only here a month. Over a pint with “The Big Finn” we touched on the subject of Switzerland being isolated from Europe. Tight border controls, jumping through hoops if you want citizenship and tough laws being brought in about immigrants and asylum seekers all point towards this. I’m not going to comment on this aspect of things until I get a feel for it myself.
What I am going to post about is the Swiss military. I’ve been hearing a lot about this from Gregor, a PhD student in my lab who is heading off to military training for three weeks soon. All Swiss men (and women but only if they choose) must complete 280 days of military service between the years of 20-30, I think. They get called up in blocks of two to three weeks and unless they have a valid excuse, Gregor in the past couldn’t go due to having exams, you must present yourself.
Depending on physical tests in your first week you’re assigned to a division for you “military career”. Infantry is the worst supposedly. Gregor reports to the Air Defense division. The weeks are taken up with marches, equipment training and the usual army stuff. I have no problem with a voluntary army/militia, the problem is when you consider the following.
When you join the army you are given a gun and live ammunition to keep at home!!
Gregor has a gun with live ammunition stashed at home in his garage! And the Swiss have a law, that every village, town and city must provide an area for shooting practice. They invented the shooting range supposedly and the cardboard cut-outs of men to shoot at! The target has to be 300 metres away and back in “the old days” you had to hit the target three times out of ten. 300 metres (980 feet or 320 yards for those who haven’t gone metric!) is a long way away. There used to be 6000 shooting posts in Switzerland, now its down to 2000 due to complaints about the noise!!
Have a read of THIS
So if Switzerland is invaded tomorrow, Gregor has to retrieve his gun and ammunition and meet his group at a designated area. According to Gregor, he is allowed to use whatever force is necessary, within reason, to get to his rendez-vous point. Once there, they’re instructed as to which way to point and shoot! Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! And having come from the Northern Ireland border, you’d think I’d be used to this stuff!!
Suddenly I don’t feel too safe or secure here any more, considering that every Swiss guy between 20 and 30 has a gun with live ammunition stored somewhere (supposedly the favourite place is under the bed)! I’m off to buy a kevlar jacket.