Czech Army having to attract recruits for first time as military service ends

As in other countries in the region such as Slovakia and Hungary, the Czech Republic is on its way to having a completely professional army, after many years of relying on compulsory military service. The Czech Army has had to undergo a radical change of approach as it finds itself having to attract recruits for the first time.

With the Czech Republic in the grip of football fever during Euro 2004, the Czech Army has been running rather crudely designed newspaper advertisements saying "Come and Play for the Army". If the ads are far from sophisticated, that could be because - after years of relying on conscripts - the army has simply never needed to advertise before.

At one of the Czech Army's new recruiting centres, Major David Tucek is one of the people responsible for overseeing the switch to a completely professional army. He tells me the army has really had to change its approach.

"It was necessary to refresh the Army a little bit and to find new people from the civilian population. Therefore in accordance with the new strategy we changed our strategy and changed our structure. We established new recruitment centres, new centres for personnel selection."

The Czech Army has a lot of work to do to improve its image with the public, especially with the male population, most of whom have tended to regard military service as an imposition. Since structural changes began two years ago, Major Tucek and his team have been working hard to improve the military's image.

"We had to start with a new strategy for us, we had to get closer to people. Because when you want to attract young people you have to be close to them, to discuss with them. But also we need some jobs or some interesting things which we can offer to the young people."

The Czech Army has a flashy recruiting website at (new career). But the vast majority of those who have already applied to join the new professional army have been rejected.

"We found that when you compare all these health and fitness conditions of all this group we can use just 37 percent. When we do some kind of psychological tests we can use just 18.5 percent."

However, says Major Tucek, by the time the last batch of conscripts complete their military service by the end of the year, the Czech Army is confident it will have found enough suitable professional replacements.