Czech Army undergoes radical changes after going professional

Czech Army undergoes radical changes

Czech army has undergone radical changes since becoming professional; most tragic year in a decade on Czech train tracks; decorated army doctor protests against NATO by returning medals

Czech Army undergoes radical changes after going professional

The Czech Army has undergone marked changes in the past 10 years after it became fully professional. It is also trusted by most citizens and praised for its deployment in foreign missions by the allies, despite having to cope with budget cuts and facing scandals over suspicious army purchases.

Compulsory military service was canceled in the Czech Republic at the end of 2004. The army included 21,055 professional troops, 20,808 civilian employees and 6,359 men undergoing their recruit training at the time. Five years earlier, the military had nearly 78,000 members, most of them recruits.

At present, the military has about 21,000 professional soldiers and 7,450 civilian employees, Defense Ministry spokesman Petr Medek said.

However, according to the plan, the military should have 5,000 professional soldiers more.

Security expert František Šulc said the combat capabilities of the Czech Army have considerably improved since 1994 despite lacking finances, due to which air defense and the artillery are still awaiting modernization.

Going professional helped the military in several ways, Šulc said. Professional troops are really interested in their work, they serve much longer than recruits, they are more skilled at handling sophisticated arms systems and more educated, including the command of foreign languages, mostly English, he added.

Budget cuts have resulted in scrapped purchases, halted modernization of some units, empty ammunition dumps, lacking uniforms or insufficient supplies in case of a combat operation.

The center-left government of Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, ČSSD) promised to increase the defense budget, currently at 1.08 percent of GDP, to 1.4 percent by 2020.

This year most tragic on Czech railways in decade

This year will be the most tragic on the Czech railways by the number of accidents and fatalities in 10 years, according to the Rail Inspection (DI) statistics that show about 312 collisions between a train and a person to date, in which 237 people died – 38 more than in 2013.

Forty-three other people were killed at level crossings.

“This year the number of collisions between a train and a person has crossed 300 for the first since the establishment of the Railway Inspection [in 2003], which is an almost 7 percent rise on 2011, which had been the most tragic year until now,” DI spokesman Martin Drapal said.

The number of deaths at level crossings, which the DI registers separately, is higher than in previous years, but it will probably not be a record one.

The biggest number, 49, occurred in 2010.

The most frequent accidents occur at level crossings with warning signs, of which there have been some 90 with 25 deaths this year.

The DI says most collisions between trains and persons occur at places where pedestrians should not move at all. About one-third of the fatalities are suicides.

Army doctor to return medals in protest against NATO

Former Czech military doctor and reserve Lieutenant Colonel Marek Obrtel called on Defense Minister Martin Stropnický to strip him of the medals he received for taking part in NATO operations in protest against the U.S. policy on Russia, daily Právo writes today.

Obrtel, who was deployed in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo, labeled NATO a criminal organization.

The actions of NATO and particularly of the United States in many countries around the world represent “the highest level of perversion and intoxication with power, but first of all conflicts that are expediently fabricated,” the paper quotes Obrtel as writing.

With the artificially triggered conflicts, NATO has been trying to destabilize countries that have refused to be vassals of the United States, Obrtel writes.

He says he wants to give up the medals in order to clearly express “his absolute disagreement with the policy that the United States has been pursuing on Russia, EU countries and all free and sovereign countries in the world.”

Právo writes that Obrtel sent his letter to the Defense Ministry before Christmas. The ministry has not yet received the letter, its spokesman Petr Medek told the paper.

But Medek said the medals cannot be taken away from Obrtel, as such a step is impossible. He said Obrtel may return the medals to his regional military headquarters.

In his letter, Obrtel praised President Miloš Zeman for his unbiased views. He also expressed support to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his restraint and keeping a detached position when facing provocations, lies and accusations.

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