Swiss military service: 'Fat doesn’t mean unfit to serve', says commission

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Swiss military service: 'Fat doesn’t mean unfit to serve', says commission
Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AFP

The Swiss army should accept overweight people for military service, a Swiss government commission has said.


Currently potential recruits above a certain body mass index are deemed unfit to serve and turned down for compulsory military service. 
However now the parliamentary commission for security policy has advised the Swiss government to open up the army to those with ‘slight disabilities’, including people with hearing problems and other minor physical impairments and those considered overweight, 20 Minuten reported.
Such people can still carry out desk-based duties, said MP Marcel Dobler.
“Let's take an overweight IT specialist. Just because he cannot fulfill the physical requirements he is considered unsuitable. He does not need a weapon for cyber defence and physical fitness is irrelevant," he told the paper, adding that it was important to exploit potential in the fields of computer science and medicine, which currently suffer from a lack of service personnel.
“Someone who is motivated but considered unfit could do better than an unmotivated person,” he added.
Currently, people with a body mass index (BMI) above 30 are not admitted to the army unless they are in good physical condition. Those with a BMI over 40 are automatically rejected. 
In 2012 around 672 people were refused in this way, according to 20 Minuten.
The commission’s report was welcomed by many, including the president of the Swiss Obesity Foundation Heinrich von Grünigen, who told the paper it would be “a good thing to allow a strong overweight person the chance to prove themselves in the military”.
Werner Salzmann, a colonel in the army, agreed that current rules were too strict. 
“Many people are refused from serving because of minor problems. We must simply find them a suitable function,” he said. 
Currently those who are declared unfit for military service can appeal in writing. If they are subsequently accepted they do not follow the usual training but are put into administrative or logistical roles.
The commission’s report comes as the army considers how to deal with shrinking numbers. 
There are currently around 167,000 soldiers, down from 200,000 in 2008, mainly because an increasing number of people are choosing to pursue civilian service instead of military service.
Since serving is compulsory, those deemed unfit to serve in either military or civilian service must pay an exemption tax of around three percent of their taxable income until the age of 30.


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