Note: This is part of a series. You can read part one and part two here. 

The Armed Forces Reconnaissance Detachment 10 (ARD 10) is Switzerland’s only professional Special Forces unit. Despite serving a neutral country, the unit can hold its own compared to many of its European counterparts, such as Germany’s KSK, Denmark’s Jaegerkorps, Holland’s KCT, Norway’s FSK, or France’s 1er RPIMa. The only difference, and maybe the most crucial, is that members of the ARD 10 lack a substantial amount of combat experience compared to their European brothers. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that Switzerland’s politicians still cling to neutrality in the hope that they will remain insulated from the ongoing terrorist atrocities occurring around the globe. As a result, Switzerland is not part of NATO, and with the exception of peace-support operations, refuses to publicly contribute in coalition efforts abroad.

As mentioned in part one of this series, the unit is still in its infancy, barely a decade old, and therefore still struggles for its right to exist among politicians and Swiss nationals. High-ranking officials who believe that such a unit will negatively affect the country’s neutrality have regularly called for the unit to disband altogether. Switzerland’s direct democracy allows its citizens, who refuse to let go of their traditional values and who still live in their ‘neutral’ bubble, to greatly influence the country’s domestic and national defense apparatus.

Consequently, there’s a false sense of security that not only affects the country’s Special Operations community, but also downgrades various security checks and procedures at major sites across the country to worryingly low levels. This becomes evident when visiting the capital city of Bern. Walking up to and into the Swiss parliament building during parliamentary sessions requires nothing more than some sort of official identification.

Nevertheless, when parliament decided to create the ARD 10 back in 2004, the unit’s mandate included the following key tasks:

  • Special reconnaissance and intelligence gathering
  • Direct action and CSAR
  • The protection of Swiss nationals, troops, and key facilities abroad
  • Rescuing Swiss nationals from crisis areas across the globe
  • Military assistance, training, and security consulting
ARD 10 members during a public demonstration
ARD 10 members during a public demonstration


Candidates who wish to join the unit undergo a rigorous multi-step selection process. Unlike most other countries, selection is open to all branches and functions of the Swiss Armed Forces, and to both male and female candidates who have successfully completed their initial six-month mandatory service. However, it has been shown that a large percentage of those who successfully complete selection come from a SOF or infantry background (grenadiers, para-recon, infantrymen, etc.).

Before selection, potential candidates must pass a two-day physical screening test. The minimum physical requirements for the physical screening are clearly outlined and known to prospective candidates before attending the test. They amount to 50 push-ups, 60 sit-ups, 10 pull-ups, a 3.1-mile run in under 24 minutes, a five-mile run in full combat gear with a 33-pound pack in under 58 minutes, a 15.5-mile run in under 3.5 hours in full combat gear with a 55-pound pack, and a 300-meter swim in under 10 minutes.

Other requirements include a good command of a second national language (German, French, or Italian), a valid driver’s license, and a good command of the English language. Successful candidates move on to a medical and psychological evaluation, as well as an interview with cadre members and the CO of the unit. 3 - aad_lauf