Antonín Genser: The priority is to relaunch comprehensive Active Reserves training
Colonel of the General Staff Ing. Antonín Genser has held the position of Commander of the Territorial Command since 2019. Prior to that, in 2016-2019, he served as Chief of Staff of the Land Forces. Between 2011-2016, he was the deputy commander of the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade. He was also Chief of Staff of the 7th Mechanized Brigade, Chief of the All-Army Training Department of the Land Forces Combat Training at the Joint Forces Command or commander of the 42nd Mechanized Battalion. Col. Genser took part at the operational deployment in Kosovo (2004) and Afghanistan (2012). We asked the colonel a few questions about his current position.
Colonel, when we say Territorial Command, what do we mean by that?
This is a relatively new element of the Czech Army’s command and control system, which was established on 1 July 2019. It is directly subordinate to the Chief of General Staff and is built on the level of other tactical headquarters. Its basic functionality is command of the Territorial Forces. The dislocation is in the Tábor garrison.
The Territorial Command is responsible for ensuring the fields of action of the command and the Regional Military Headquarters towards the subjects of state administration and self-administration, in addition to ensuring activities related to the performance of state administration. It manages cooperation with territorial bodies of state administration and self-administration in securing defense and solves issues of crisis management together with them. Coordinates processes related to the construction of Active Reserves in the subordination of the Regional Military Headquarters.
The main tasks are:
- Ensuring territorial defense
- Participates in the performance of the Czech Army’s tasks in crisis management
- Provides support for Allied troops on its own territory
- Performs tasks of operational preparation of the state territory
- Through the Regional Military HQs, it provides mobilization replenishment of the Armed Forces
- Coordinates the processes of performance of state administration
- Ensures the preparation of citizens for the defense of the state
Who performed these tasks before the Territorial Command was established? What do you see as the added value of this department?
In previous years, the MoD Capability Planning Section performed these tasks. This is an element of the strategic level and this solution was due to the time and situation in the Czech Army.
The activities of the Regional Military Headquarters and especially their Active Reserve company require comprehensive support, and this is the headquarters that is able to provide. The increasing number of Active Reserves already requires a different approach to command, planning and security.
One of the tasks of the Territorial Command is to provide support for Allied troops on its own territory. Recently, as part of the Saber Guardian 2021 international exercise, six hundred American soldiers with 190 pieces of military equipment passed through the Czech Republic, and the Czech Army provided logistical support to American troops as part of the above-mentioned event. How do you evaluate the fulfillment of our task?
The Operations Command has been entrusted with the management and organization of support and security for this transfer. The Territorial Command and the Regional Military HQs only had a supporting role in terms of communication with local administration and self-administration authorities. We also provided a smaller part of logistics. From my point of view, the transfer took place according to the planned scenario, without problems and a negative impact on the population of the Czech Republic.
If, for example, the devastating floods we have experienced in recent years were repeated, what would the involvement of the Territorial Command and the overall coordination of forces look like now?
The Czech Army would certainly face this situation, as always, through the Operations Command we would be given the task of deploying forces and resources together with other forces. Our essential role is then in coordinating the deployment of forces and resources in individual regions. In these situations, the Czech Army is never alone. Regions and their elements also perform their tasks. Regions have their own specifics and it is there that our subordinate Regional Military HQs play an essential role. We organize, coordinate and provide the superior level with information and documents for other decisions outside our scope.
The deployment of soldiers of Active Reserves in case of crisis (coronavirus, etc.) is debated often. In what case is the deployment of Active Reserves envisaged? On social networks we can find various comments of their members, which show disappointment that they were not deployed (or occurred late and to a limited extent) in the case of district protection, or further assistance in the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic. In the end, you yourself said at the Hradba 2018 exercise, "Don't divide the Army and the Reserves, we are one whole."
What I said continues to apply, and so far I stand firm. Active Reserves are a fixed and permanent part of the Czech Army. Suitability, expertise, sustainability, availability and many, many other factors are always considered in each deployment and operation. The headquarters, which then plans to deploy, selects the most appropriate forces and means to deploy on the basis of all established criteria. And that's exactly what happened.
I understand the enormous taste and effort of all Active Reserves to get involved in the process during the difficult time we experienced. In any case, the deployment of Active Reserve took place in July and will continue in August for the purpose of ensuring the operation of the National Vaccination Center in the O2 Arena.
You also coordinate processes related to the construction of Active Reserves. What condition is Active Reserves currently in after a practically one-year downtime and absence of exercise?
The annual "shutdown" sounds dramatic, I personally don't see it as black. We are able to catch up with unfulfilled jobs in the following period. The Active Reserves training cycle is designed to take these situations into account.
Your tasks also include the POKOS project, ie preparing citizens to defend the state, when soldiers attend schools and provide education about the Alliance, etc. Do you think a one-time visit has the desired effect? Wouldn't it be better to include regular education in the curriculum, such as the modern concept of former military education?
Indeed, POKOS is today probably the only project that deals with the preparation of citizens for the defense of the state. I am not an expert on education in the Czech Republic, but of course it is logical that greater frequency and space for any topic means better preparedness. At present, the system is set up as follows and we are trying to approach this issue responsibly and effectively. In addition, a number of study materials, publications and manuals are available in the current conditions, from which a lot of information and knowledge can be obtained. It's about each individual's interest in learning and learning something extra.
Also within the POKOS project, education was interrupted by the coronavirus. When will the soldiers be able to return to school?
There is a simple answer to that. At the moment when the hygienic rules allow this activity to be performed again. We are ready.
Colonel, the Czech Republic is slowly opening from the various restrictions caused by coronavirus. What tasks are now a priority for you to the end of the year?
The priority is to relaunch comprehensive, especially field, Active Reserves training in the form of Active Reserves calling for exercises. In September of this year, we are preparing a large Active Reserves HRADBA 2021 exercise. It will be common nationwide and we will train together with the Land and Air Forces.