The head of the Swiss army, Christophe Keckeis, says he wants more women to take part in army missions abroad.This content was published on February 22, 2005 - 12:02
Keckeis told a women’s information meeting in the central town of Stans that foreign missions were a sign of Swiss solidarity with other countries.
He explained that thanks to women, Swiss army missions abroad had gained a new dimension and quality.
"The presence of women in difficult situations can have the effect of reducing tension," he said.
Keckeis also indicated that the number of troops available for foreign duty should be doubled.
"Between now and the year 2008, we are going to increase our commitment towards peace promotion with up to 500 military personnel, as is foreseen in the army plans," he said.
Keckeis said that service abroad offered all those taking part a unique chance to collect human and career experience in an international environment.
A higher proportion of women in foreign missions was therefore desirable and necessary.
Catch the bug
He urged women to catch the "foreign mission bug" because they improved the atmosphere among the troops and would play a greater role in the future.
Since January 1, women in the Swiss army have had the opportunity to take up all army career possibilities and ranks.
The corps commander appealed to the women at the meeting to exploit these opportunities more.
Keckeis commented that he was convinced that it was only a question of time before a woman led a contingent or company abroad.
Participants in Stans were informed about the various operations carried out by the Swiss army abroad, as well as the prerequisites for taking part and the necessary training.
The group also took the opportunity to tour the Stans training camp and talk to women who have already been on a foreign mission.
swissinfo with agencies
The first Swiss peace mission abroad was in 1953 when 93 military personnel acted as observers between the two Koreas.
The current situation: there are about 220 armed volunteers in Kosovo; ten military personnel in Bosnia; four military officials in Afghanistan and several demining specialists in a number of other countries.
Twenty Swiss officers work as observers for the United Nations Security Council (Middle East, Georgia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia/Eritrea).
Within Swisscoy (Swiss Company) – Switzerland’s participation in the peace-supporting Kosovo Force - and at the brigade level, women are employed in a number of functions:
They work as press and information officers, military police, pilots, analysts, drivers, communication specialists, medical services and in administration.
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