While they value the camaraderie it offers, nearly two-thirds of Swiss troops don’t feel their military service contributes anything to the country’s security, says a survey presented to top army officers on Thursday.
The survey asked troops to what extent they agreed with a series of statements about leadership, tasks and attitudes toward their military service. It surveyed 15 per cent of all recruits, soldiers, course participants and officers across the Swiss military. For the first time, the survey made use of telephone text messaging technology for data gathering.
Many of the results were positive: more than 70 per cent of responders felt they were able to reach the goals set for their units and that their instructors were technically competent.
However, other responses were “disappointing” and “not good at all”, according to army spokesman Christoph Brunner. For example, only about 30 per cent would “recommend further military education to an acquaintance” and just over a third of army members said they felt they were contributing to Switzerland’s security and making a civil contribution.
The head of the army, Lieutenant General André Blattmann, commissioned the study in January 2012 “because we want to get better”, Brunner told swissinfo.ch.
“We want to have a direct response from our troops as to how they judge their service,” he explained.
Brunner says that in reaction to the survey results, senior staff officers have been informed they will be responsible in future for helping their subordinates understand why Switzerland needs an army, what services the army is providing for the country and how they are contributing to the security of Switzerland.
The officers will have to communicate this message in presentations given to each unit.
For 2013 the army will continue to collect information, but the survey will be adapted so that there are five different versions, and all members of the army will be required to respond, compared with 11,497 selected as a representative sample in 2012.
The survey results come amid years of debate over whether Switzerland’s conscript military should continue to operate under the same model.
A pacifist group known as Switzerland Without an Army proposed the latest initiative to end conscription, which is pending. Discussions are set to be continued in the Senate before the cabinet sets a date for a nationwide ballot on the issue.
It will be the third time in less than 25 years that anti-conscription initiatives have been put to voters.