Swiss Army and the Swiss Elite
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If you were a Swiss man, you would be a soldier as well. Every able-bodied Swiss man must go to the army in Switzerland for 90 days (Rekrutenschule-Ecole de recrue) and then every 2 years until the age of 42, he must return for practice for 19 days. This allows the government to raise an army of 400,000 men, fully armed, within 24 hours, as every soldier has an assault gun in his house, complete with ammunition. But there is more to this than a picturesque democratic institution.

Many CEOs of big Swiss companies are officers in the Swiss army, and this is so common that when a normal soldier is promoted to such a position, the newspapers will mention the fact. If they have spent the long weeks necessary to reach the rank (900 days to become a Captain), it is not just for the love of guns.

Officers usually address each other by the familiar form tu or du and their old boy network spreads among the most powerful industries of the country, particularly in banking. Some factories are run by teams of managers who all belong to the same army Division. When the time of the biannual “rehearsal courses” comes, the CEO just exchanges his suit for assault dress and the troops follow. But times are changing. In the past, a successful career in a Swiss bank may have implied the need to be an high-ranking officer in the Swiss army.

However, over the past 15 years banks have complained that their managers were always out of the office, and the merits of advanced military training for managers is being increasingly called into question.

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