A group of young arabs smoke marijuana on the steps while a gaggle of hippies has their confab in a sharing circle on the other side of the station. Neon blue lights streak across the concrete slabs in front of the Lausanne-Flor metro station where a family pushes a stroller between the two groups. It appears to be a local man with his parents and Asian wife.

Lausanne is primarily a college town located about an hour by train from Geneva, Switzerland. The city mixes the traditional architecture of the old city almost seamlessly with the modern glass and metal of bridges and elevators. With the highest density of trains to people anywhere in the world, public transportation is always on time—putting the subways of New York City to shame.

Interrupting the pedestrians at Lausanne-Flor is a group of Swiss soldiers. Wearing their woodland camouflage uniforms and berets, they shout at each other in French, hurrying to buy a few beers in plastic cups for the trip to their next destination before the metro arrives. Nobody pays them much mind, though. They are not rude or rowdy, just doing the things that soldiers do the world over. Besides, they are a part of a military tradition stretching back hundreds of years.

Unlike America, it is not uncommon to see Switzerland’s citizen-soldiers walking the streets in uniform. They keep their Army-issued SIG 550 rifle in their bedrooms at home, in the trunks of their cars, and carry them on the metro on the way to complete their required military service. None of this is astounding or even interesting to the Swiss people.

The soldiers carefully balance their cups of beer so as to not spill any as they rush towards the metro station and dash down the stairs.

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After enjoying a few beers myself, I head back to the apartment of a Swiss militia member who is putting me up for a few days. He isn’t home, as he is bouncing between his two jobs: project manager for Switzerland’s largest newspaper and magazine company, and infantry officer. Diallo has to complete his mandatory service in addition to working his regular job in order to make ends meet.

Waking up early the next morning, I jump on the train to the Swiss capital of Bern to explore some museums, then head back to Lausanne to meet another Swiss officer. Louis has worked as a recon officer for an infantry unit and has been overseas a few times on the only deployment option anywhere for Swiss soldiers: the Partnership for Peace (PFP) in Kosovo, which exists under the auspices of NATO. Louis hooks me up with some range time with the SIG firearms that the Swiss military uses.