It’s not unusual to see camouflage-clad soldiers and vehicles throughout Switzerland. Every male between the ages of 18 and 35 can be conscripted into the Army, and after 21 weeks’ basic training you keep your weapon and undergo additional training, followed by reserve duty.

This week, soldiers swarmed the Geneva airport, as well as a refinery in Neuchatel, as part of exercise LUX 23 - one of Switzerland's largest military exercises in more than three decades. "These exercises are a necessity, in particular because of the special status of Geneva with its international organizations", declared the president of the Geneva Council of State, Mauro Poggia. 

"They should be carried out at more regular intervals," added Major Mathias Tüscher, commander of Territorial Division 1, which defends the French-speaking cantons in western Switzerland and the capital area of Bern.

The training focused on new ‘light forces,’ and included collaboration with cantonal police, emergency services, border surveillance and elements of the French army. 

LUX 23 mobilized nearly 4,000 soldiers across 4 cantons and 9 days for a scenario in which armed separatist militias from a fictitious region of Europe threaten neutral Switzerland. In planning for two years, the exercise was adapted to recent events in Ukraine and Africa, according to Major Tüscher.

"The willingness of our partners and the understanding of the population regarding this kind of drill that has greatly changed", said Tüscher. "This, of course, is directly linked” to the war in Ukraine.