Everyone that has served in the Swiss army will know the term „Hamburgertaufe“. Currently, a „Media-Mania“ about this rite is going through the swiss media. Most of the articles report of excessive abuse of alcohol and neglecting the dignity of the „Hamburgers“. From my point of view, this is a subject which is hyped by our media. Because of some baptisms which went out of bounds, the whole rite should be banned. Of course, drinking alcohol out of a (previously washed!) Urinal or tipping a whole bottle of jaegermeister into someones throat using a funnel is totally inept. But this is, from what i know, only a small percentage of baptisms which take place each year.
With this article I do not intend to excuse or accept such behavior. I want to explain what the „Hamburger baptism“ is and what its supposed to do.
The swiss Army is organized as a militia. Every male citizen of Switzerland which is found able of serving the army first has to complete the Recruits school. You need to understand that at the recruit school you are constantly drilled on military forms and are basically never walking, just running. Most of your superiors are enforcing the military forms in every way they can in order to make you a good soldier. Of course, you know what your superiors want from you and how they want it. After all you’ve been with them since you entered the army as a civilian. After the Recruit school you usually go to a yearly 3-week repetition course to freshen up your skills or be trained on new equipment. A „Hamburger“ is a member of the Army which is in his first repetition course.
The first repetition course is similar to the first day in secondary school. You think you know what the others „might“ expect from you. You try to stick to the military forms you were taught in RS. You are very unsure if you can match up to the people that have already done a repetition course. You are nervous. Then you are totally overrun, because your imagination didn’t meet the reality. Everyone who serverd in the swiss army knows what i mean 🙂
Of course the military forms are still important, but not between soldiers and sergeants. There its more like comrades. The whole repetition course you learn that everyone in the company sits in the same boat. Everyone just wants to have a smooth repetition course without the higher ranks annoying them. The is a strong cohesion in the company in this respect.
Of course, the „Hamburger“ isn’t a full member of the company until he is baptised. This usually takes place during the company evening in the last week of the repetition course. Yes, it sometimes is a bit of a test, and yes, it usually involves drinking of alcohol. My baptism involved a obstacle run, drill from the RS and of course, lots of Beer. I was worried and excited at the same time. But after it was over I was proud to have survived it and really felt like a part of the company.
Now, the media calls the politicians for action to ban this rite. In my opinion this is a very dangerous thing to do, because something that is illegal cannot be regulated by the company commander or other officers. This forces the companies to baptise their „Hamburgers“ in secrecy and uncontrolled.
It would make me sad, if for one or two baptisms which went out of bounds, thousands of baptisms each year couldn’t take place anymore. It is sort of not in relation.