The Army works on a better image

Ask a Czech youngster what he'd like to be when he grows up and you're likely to get any of the following answers: an astronaut, pilot, or fireman. The answer you are unlikely to get is: soldier. That at least is how the Czech Army sees it. Its credibility is not good and like the police it is taking action to change that. While the police organize special traffic-police events involving children -who naturally love stopping and fining drivers - the army has tried a different tactic. It organized a national competition of children's drawing on "How I see the army" and -as a reward for taking part - it invited the 3,000 young artists to a Xmas musical. The musical was featured in 13 Czech cities and the "Cinderella Army Tour 2001" -as the event has been dubbed- turned out to be a huge success. This weekend 800 children from Prague enjoyed the show and none of them saw anything paradoxical about the connection between the army and Cinderella. It was a Christmas gift from the army - and a much appreciated one. By Daniela Lazarova.

Ironically, this army PR event comes at a time when -in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks - the sale of army toys has dropped to an all-time low. Toy guns, tanks and grenades are left lying on the shelves and some salespeople have even stopped ordering them. Lieutenant-Colonel Frantisek Nagebauer says the idea is to let kids know that the army is now just about warfare:

" We want to show children that the army is a part of society and that it is not just about war and killing. It's a profession - a very responsible and hopefully one day also prestigious profession - for men and women who are not afraid of challenging work. Among these children are our future recruits. We don't expect them to all join the army one day but we would like them to all see our work differently."

Well, I don't know how many of them may one day wear green uniforms but right now they are very big fans!