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Army wants off-base soldiers in civvies

The Swiss military wants to break with the tradition of having its soldiers and recruits wear uniforms while socialising away from the barracks.

"Personally, I am of the opinion that we would prevent many problems if we send our soldiers in civilian clothes when they go out," Major General Eugen Hofmeister was quoted as saying in the Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.

The senior officer criticised soldiers that through their behaviour in uniform presented a negative image of the army and said it would be better if they were indistinguishable from other people while not on duty.

Residents in communities with military barracks have had enough of solders that "drink... smoke pot and snort coke," Hofmeister said. Hardly any army in the world has the same policy, he added.

The uniform soldiers wear when they go out costs SFr162 ($139) and the military could save some money, Hofmeister said, although he acknowledged his proposal would meet with heated debate.

Rolf Homberger, the president of the non-commissioned officers association, criticised the proposal, saying that soldiers in uniform should be "honoured and admired".

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