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People are essential to the Swiss Armed Forces. This is particularly important in Cyber Command, which ultimately deals not with technologies, but with the people who use them.

Like other sections of the armed forces, Cyber Command is made up of professional staff and members of the militia. Militia members of Cyber Battalion 42 work with and for professional Cyber Command personnel on tasks in cyberspace. Cyber Battalion 42 is one of the benefits of the militia system, and enables citizens to bring knowledge and experience from their professional and private lives to Cyber Command. Other armed forces in Europe demonstrate why the militia system is so useful, especially for online threats. Most other armies are professional and often find it difficult to recruit and retain personnel, as the armed forces are in direct competition with the private sector.


Cyber training – a win-win-win situation

What does the army’s cyber training involve and what makes it so unique? It is a win-win-win situation. It benefits the Swiss Armed Forces because citizens feed their knowledge back into the army through annual refresher courses (WK). It benefits the conscripts because they perform tasks that give them an advantage in their future professional or academic careers. And it benefits the economy because it gives young talent skills that they can later use to increase profits in the sectors they work in. The army’s cyber training therefore not only ensures that the army fulfill its responsibilities in cyberspace, but is also beneficial for conscripts, the economy and society.


SPARC pre-service cyber training

The SPARC pre-service cyber training program started in 2023. Young Swiss citizens aged 16 and over can participate. The program is free of charge and is also open to youngsters with no IT or cyber know-how. Content is arranged in modules and made available via a learning platform. It is supplemented with community events. The various modules represent between 200 and 300 hours of learning. The aim of SPARC is to spread knowledge and identify and recruit talent for the army’s cyber training program.


The army cyber training program

Each course trains around 20 – 25 members of the army. Young people are selected for this demanding and varied program through a two-part process at the start of basic training.

What does it take to pass the selection process? We are often asked this question. The answer is surprisingly simple: A passion for computers and computer networks. Prior technical knowledge is of course required. Anyone who is interested can acquire the necessary skills through the SPARC program, for example. But technical skills are not the only requirement. Social skills are also important, because computer networking is a team sport. An organization can only be successful if the right team members work together efficiently to make the right decisions and are able to do so under high pressure.

The army’s cyber course lasts 40 weeks and is held twice a year. Content is based on the needs of the armed forces and is similar to that provided in the private sector. Cyber training is accompanied by leadership training as part of NCO training. Participants commit to complete the training to become a non-commissioned officer. This specialist technical training is longer and carries a longer requirement to serve in the army than for junior ranks.


Practical service

Both SPARC and the actual cyber course are very practical. Participants are trained for twelve weeks by the Cyber Command staff as part of their practical service. It is important that participants work closely together during training, as regulars put members of the cyber militia attending refresher courses to work on daily business. There is also the option to complete the twelve-week practical service period outside the army, for example with Swisscom or with a cantonal law enforcement agency. Cyber Command works with the Swiss Security Network and with officials responsible for critical infrastructure.

The army’s cyber course gives participants a great deal of practical experience and expands their technical knowledge, laying the foundations for a successful professional or academic career. Completing the cyber course has specific career benefits: Graduates get fast-track access to the Cyber Security Specialist professional examination and, depending on the university, between 20 and 25 ECTS credits against a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Cyber Security.

More of the cyber course