As part of Switzerland’s mandatory military service, new conscripts must undergo 15 to 18 weeks of basic training.
The exercises were supposed to begin on January 18th, but thousands of recruits who were scheduled to report to their assigned barracks got a reprieve of sorts.
To decrease the risk of Covid-19 spreading in the barracks, the army has decided that recruits should do their basic training at home for the next three weeks.
“It's quite new”, Swiss army spokesperson Daniel Reist told the media, adding that “it is the ideal solution” during the pandemic.
As a result of this unprecedented measure, some 5,000 of this year's 15,000 recruits will undergo their training from the comfort of their homes.
Reist said that each soldier received the learning module covering subjects such the operation of their service weapon, information on bacteriological and chemical arms, military regulations, and health protection.
“We leave them the choice of when to do their lessons, but they need six hours of telework each day”, Reist said.
Four hours of physical activity a week is also included in the training.
Though left pretty much to their own devices, the recruits won’t be able to slack off as their superiors can monitor when the person logs on and off.
And this theoretical knowledge will be tested when the recruits arrive at the barracks after three weeks home.
Nor all the troops will be deployed at the same time, however.
The physical entry into the recruit school will be “staggered, in order to ensure that any conscript who tests positive for Covid-19 is optimally supported and that appropriate isolation and quarantine measures can be taken”, the Federal Department of Defense said in a press release.
The first group, consisting of medical personnel who could be called upon to support the troops already mobilised with civilian personnel in Swiss hospitals, begin their service on Monday.
Those who are training from home will be called up on February 8th.
But not everyone is impressed by the new system.
“I can see that we have to make unconventional concessions right now, but I'm skeptical. Military service has a practical and social character which can’t be replaced by e-learning “, said Stefan Holenstein, president of the Swiss Society of Officers.
Despite its neutrality, Switzerland has compulsory military service. After undergoing basic training at the age of 19, Swiss are then required to spend several weeks in the army each year until they have completed at least 245 days of service.
Conscription is for men only but women can volunteer for any post.