Czech Army registers tenfold increase in active reserves applications since Ukraine invasion

Applications to join the Czech Army’s active reserves, a non-professional pool of troops that the armed forces can draw upon when lacking in manpower, have grown tenfold since Russia invaded Ukraine three weeks ago. Overwhelmed by the number of applicants, the Army is now expanding its training capacities.

Illustrative photo: Milan Soldán,  Czech Radio

Army registration offices have been filled up in recent weeks with hundreds of Czechs looking to sign up for the country’s active reserves. Around 2,300 have been registered since mid-February and many of the applicants say that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine served as an impulse to sign up.

Ludvík Cimburek, who serves as an advisor to the Czech Army General Staff, told Czech Radio that that these are unprecedented numbers.

Ludvík Cimburek | Photo: Kristýna Hladíková,  Czech Radio

“We used to have dozens of applications coming in every week. Now it’s hundreds. It is a huge wave of prospective recruits, but one that we want to process in full.”

Before the onset of war in Ukraine, the path from enlistment to becoming a full active reservist stretched over at least four months. In view of the high number of applicants it is now likely to take longer, says Mr Cimburek.

“We all hope that we will manage to process this wave of new applications, that have come in over the past month, by the end of the year. However, it is likely that some people will have to wait until 2023 before they can enter into the system, because there won’t be any space left in our autumn basic training courses.”

Illustrative photo: Michal Polášek,  Czech Radio

To deal with the surge in interest, the Army has already increased the number of staff working in recruitment offices. One of those responsible for processing the applications is Colonel Iva Bednářová. She told Czech Radio that around a third of all applicants are from Prague and its surrounding districts.

“It’s no longer possible to communicate with applicants in the same way that we were used to in the past. Now we invite smaller groups of them several times a day. Recruitment officers based in Prague are being supported by other recruitment offices.”

Illustrative photo: Michal Polášek,  Czech Radio

Another significant logistical challenge that the Army is facing now is a lack of doctors who can be used to conduct initial health screenings of the prospective applicants. The issue is further complicated by the fact that some recruits do not turn up for their scheduled health check leaving vital human resources go to waste. To tackle the problem, the army has begun sending text message alerts to applicants reminding them of their health screening 48 hours ahead of time. A more comprehensive set of solutions is set to be presented to the general staff on Monday.

The official beginnings of the modern active reserves of the Czech Army stretch back to 2004, when the government passed a law establishing 14 reserve companies, one for each region of the Czech Republic. The reserve system has since been expanded further and there are currently more than 3,500 male and female reservists. These can be deployed by the army not just in times of war, but also during various crises such as the coronavirus pandemic or severe floods. The Czech Army had originally planned to expand its active reserves numbers by an extra 1,200 people in 2022 to a total of around 4,700.

Illustrative photo: Zdeněk Trnka,  Czech Radio
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