Geneva’s Van Creveld, Vautravers at Swiss Army Training Ground

| November 21, 2012
Webster University Geneva - Thun visit

Geneva IR department head Lt. Col. Vautravers (second from left) accompanied Martin Van Creveld (second from right) on a visit to training grounds in Thun.

Visiting professor and military historian Martin Van Creveld visited the largest Swiss Army base in Thun, central Switzerland, Nov. 17, for a half-day tour of one of the most modern training and simulation infrastructures in the world.

Webster University Geneva

Observing the training simulators at Thun

Since 1817, Thun is the first training ground and also the largest of the Swiss Army. South of Bern, its location was chosen so that troops could be rapidly deployed to Bern-Basel, Luzern-Zurich or the French-speaking Western Switzerland rapidly and efficiently.

Today, the infrastructure is host to two training units (Lehrverbände) for cavalry and logistics. Over 2000 recruits are trained in Thun each year.

Switzerland is one of the last countries in Europe to maintain obligatory military service for able men, aged 18 to 32; officers serve until 36. Those who do not serve in the army may serve in civil protection or civil service for a longer period of time. Conscription is similar to Israel, which largely copied the Swiss “militia” system in the 1950s.

Due to the short training sessions, the high costs and the population density in the country, as much of the basic training as possible takes place on state-of-the-art simulators. These range from part-task trainers to comprehensive computer systems, able to train entire battalions or brigades.

Van Creveld was impressed by the quality of the infrastructure. In his career, he has written several books on military training and military culture. At Webster, Van Creveld teaches an issues class on “The Future of War.” His visit was organized by Alexandre Vautravers, head of the International Relations Department at Webster University Geneva, who is also a lieutenant colonel of the Swiss General Staff. Vautravers has commanded the Swiss 17th Tank battalion since 2009.

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Category: International & U.S. Campuses

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