Army moves to ease panic over national conscription drill

Czech military chiefs have moved to quell public alarm sparked by the fact civilian doctors will take part in an exercise call-up drive next month. Top brass say the conscription readiness test is in fact a routine matter.

May 18 will see the Czech Army hold an exercise conscription drive aimed at making sure that it is capable of effectively calling up potential soldiers in the event of a conflict situation.

Unlike in previous years, the call-up drill will take place in all 14 regions of the country simultaneously – and will involve civilian doctors.

Karel Řehka | Photo: Petr Dohnal,  Czech Army

The latter fact was seized upon by populist anti-government campaigner Jindřich Rajchl.

In a social media post beginning “now things are starting to get serious” he said medics were in fact being trained to carry out mass call-ups, if they came to pass.

Mr. Rajchl’s post, which says this is “another step in their plan”, has been shared 11,000 times – prompting the Czech Army to take the unusual step of responding directly to a piece of disinformation.

The chief of the General Staff, Major General Karel Řehka, made this comment to Czech Radio.

“We don’t want to boost untruths by giving them attention and reach by responding to them. But in this case we had indications it could spark panic among the population. Naturally the security situation is not easy at present, so we understand that people might have concerns. But this is training that has been running regularly for nine years in a row.”

The Czech Army account on Twitter reiterated that the Conscription Management drill has been taking place annually since 2015.

This year some 200 professional soldiers and reserves will be taking part, while regional representatives and GPs will also be involved on a voluntary basis, it said.

Petr Pavel | Photo: Czech Army

President Petr Pavel is a former head of the Czech Army. He said after a State Security Council meeting on Wednesday that there had been similar panics in his day.

“Unfortunately emotions are a poor advisor, because they often lead to misguided conclusions and cause utterly needless psychosis. What will be practiced is a standard administrative process of recruitment. That doesn’t mean mobilization itself, but merely establishing the state of the population – how many people are capable of being potentially conscripted, health-wise, if such a situation arose.”

Mr. Pavel also pointed out that conscription has never left the Czech statute books.

“Mobilisation is enshrined in our legislation and applies to all citizens aged 18 to 60, if we get into the worst security situation, meaning armed conflict. Nobody has removed that obligation from citizens, and if people are to fulfil it, we need the procedures to carry that out. It isn’t written anywhere that such a threat faces us any time soon. But we should be ready for it, because whoever is ready isn’t surprised.”