Gen. Roman Náhončík: Reliable people are the foundation
Brigadier General Roman Náhončík has been the Commander of the Czech Army Land Forces since the beginning of December last year. He took over the command in a situation where it is necessary to take into account a real conflict close to our borders. Our alliance commitment has to be taken seriously, which means certain demands on training, modernisation of military equipment and a new character of missions. In this episode of our CZ DIALOGY programme, we discussed with the General not only the recent takeover of the first Leopard 2 A4 tank, but also the further development of the Czech Armed Forces tank force, soldier training, the ageing of the army and the further development of the ground troops.
Video: Interview with Commander of the Land Forces of the Army of the Czech Republic Brigadier General Roman Náhončík / CZ DEFENCE
According to General Náhončík, the current security situation has an impact on the overall training and preparation of our army. "That is why this year we are focusing more on starting to train in higher military units and preparing for what the Chief of the General Staff said - a higher scale conflict. This year, we will be fine-tuning the Fourth Brigade Task Force again, which will have several staff drills throughout the year. The basic parameters of the training have not changed: "We are still preparing for collective defence in cooperation with allied units. Specifically, this is the Czech Lion 2023 exercise and it will be about aligning the 4th Brigade Group with our and coalition partners.
The Czech Army Land Forces are also introducing new technologies and equipment, such as reconnaissance assets in the 53rd Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare Regiment. "We used these assets last year at the JOINT FIRES EXPERIMENTAL exercise, where we conducted command training for our subordinate unit commanders up to the battalion commander level, so they could see what our units and, in fact, the entire Land Forces have at their disposal," General says.
The 73rd Tank Battalion in Přáslavice took delivery of its first Leopard 2 A4 late last year and there is talk of acquiring another five dozen machines in the latest variant. This raises the question of whether the Land Forces will be expanded by one more tank battalion. General Náhončík does not confirm this reasoning yet. "For the time being, we are planning to rearm, prepare and train one tank battalion so that it is full-fledged and has all the attributes it needs. This means that it is not just about taking over the Leopard equipment as such, but it is about logistics, about security, about spare parts, about ammunition and other things that have to be created," the general explained. Also new will be a change in the training of individual crews, where while the T-72M4 CZ tank is operated by a three-man crew, the Leopard 2 tank needs a crew of four men – commander driver, gunner and loader. For the Czech Army, this means a change in organisational structure and the completion of certain courses. Subsequently, the new equipment will be introduced into the army and full training can take place in higher units. "I mean from platoon, company and battalion, then brigade. Training on the new type of tank starts with training drivers, gunners, tank commanders, but more or less the operator as a new crew member is important for us. The next level of training is interchangeability. A complete four-man crew must be trained so that members can substitute for each other," the commander explains. General Náhončík is a tanker himself, so we asked him what would be the ideal new tank for the Czech Armed Forces? "As far as the armament of the Czech Army is concerned, the Leopard 2 A7+, which is used by the Bundeswehr. When I was commander of the Fourth Brigade, I had a very close cooperation with the 37th Mechanised Brigade of the Bundeswehr. They are armed with this type of tanks. Of course, there are the same problems as with any new equipment, concerning spare parts, servicing and other things. So, when acquiring new tanks, you need to have enough spare parts and, more importantly, the financial means to keep this equipment in the life cycle. In any case, I think the Leopard 2 A7+ is the best fit for our army," General says.
Picture: In this episode of our discussion show CZ DIALOGY, we talked to the Commander of the Land Forces of the Army of the Czech Republic, Brigadier General Roman Náhončík | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
We also asked about the problem pointed out at the end of last year by the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces Gen. Řehka at the Commanders' meeting that the Czech Army is ageing and that recruitment is needed. "For 2023 we have a plan to recruit one thousand soldiers for the Land Forces of the Czech Armed Forces. Considering that there are currently about three thousand five hundred to three thousand six hundred unfilled positions in all the units we have within the Land Forces, the recruitment ambition should be higher. However, new soldiers have to go through training, schools and get the appropriate education and training and, most importantly, get some experience. Therefore, the realistic time to replenish the full complement of professional soldiers in Land Forces is more like 10 years," General Náhončík calculates.
A lot of things play a role in recruitment, such as individual specialisations, education and training plans, etc., so that, for example, recruits can later either command units or be members of the staff. The Achilles' heel of recruitment for the Land Forces is similar to other units, which are mainly health, age and readiness. "Basic military service ended in 2004. We already have to take into account that the candidates have never been through the war, so we have to give them the very basic, let's say military habits on which we could build and train them further," explains General Náhončík. Active Reserves can also be an important tool. According to the general, these are a solid part of the Land Forces. There are reservists in all units and there is an effort to keep soldiers who leave the army, for example, with the AR. "Sometimes it's already happening the other way around, with people from the Active Reserve transitioning back to the Army, but that's life," the Land Forces commander muses. If a reservist goes back into the service, that's a definite advantage for the Army. It's because the person coming in is already trained and can train others. Any previous mission experience is also an advantage.
Foreign missions are an important part of a soldier's life, which is why we asked General Nahoncik which of his missions stuck in his mind the most. It was 1997, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a great experience. It wasn't just professional soldiers then, of course. There were reservists who went with us and trained. At that time there was a three-month training at the centre in Český Krumlov and I think we knew what we needed," the general recalls.
During our conversation with the general, we discussed the current and future armament of the Land Forces, in addition to its connection with unmanned aerial vehicles and aviation. To the final question of what he would wish for our army this year, General Nahoncik replied, "Lots of good people, because soldiers and military personnel are crucial. Reliable people are the foundation. If I don't have the people, I can have the most modern equipment in my yard, but I won't have the personnel to operate it. And you just can't do that."