First ‘voluntary soldiers’ taken on
Unless a state of emergency or war is declared, the new law on the Czech armed forces in force since July enables any citizen between 18 and 60 years of age, without a criminal record, to voluntarily take part in military training and become a reservist.
Clerks at the armed forces’ General Staff have registered 895 men and women who have filled in non-binding recruitment applications or visited a recruitment centre. However, only a handful will eventually present themselves at the military training centre in Vyškov for what, historically, will be the first volunteers’ training course. And some more may still fall by the wayside.
“We have selected 16 volunteers interested in signing up for military duty and they will join 56 active reserves applicants for the six-week training course,” said Jan Šulc, a spokesman for the General Staff.
The spokesman explained that the low number of trainees was down to the failure of most applicants to go through the prescribed set of medical examinations. "The law has been in force for three months only and it was holiday time too. Many of the applicants simply have not had the time to get their paperwork in order,” Šulc said. In addition to the green light from doctors, applicants must sign an affidavit in which they disavow extremist views.
According to information available to E15 daily, a possible contributory reason for the low number of applicants selected is that the army lacks sufficient training capacities. This fact came to light while the amendment to the country’s law on its military forces was debated in Parliament. The original bill envisaged mandatory conscription for everyone above the age of 18. But fears that the Vyškov training centre would not be able to cope with the resulting numbers of conscripts each year eventually led to the bill being modified and the law stipulating voluntary training only.
“We must test the water first. We do not know whether it will be 30, 300, or 3,000 people that come to Vyškov in October. We will have to learn to manage things as the training centre is by no means expandable. The results of the inaugural year will dictate the way forward in subsequent years,” General Josef Bečvář, Chief of the General Staff, said recently.
In addition to improving the volunteers’ fitness, most of the training will concentrate on teaching tactics, the use of firearms, topography, medical skills and employing defences against weapons of mass destruction. The aim is to train the volunteers in basic fighting skills and the use of an assault rifle and handgun. The course will also include physical training and drills.