Interview with the Chief of the Military Police Gen. Murček not only about the evacuation of people from Afghanistan
The Military Police (MP) has been mentioned in the media this year mainly in connection with the KAMBA unit, which played a key role in the recent evacuation of Afghan embassy staff and Czech Army personnel from Kabul, Afghanistan, and did an absolutely top-notch job. However, Military Police officers have demonstrated their professionalism not only in Afghanistan, but also in the Balkans, the Sinai Peninsula, Iraq, Mali and in the framework of the eFP in the Baltics. Of course, members of the Military Police have also been working extensively in the Czech Republic, where, in addition to their primary tasks, they have also helped in the fight against coronavirus, for example, from the very beginning. We asked the Chief of the Military Police, General Miroslav Murček, a few questions about the activities of the MP.
General, this is the second year we have been dealing with the coronavirus crisis. Can you tell us how the Military Police has been involved in the fight against this pandemic?
The Military Police have been involved in the fight against the covid-19 pandemic from the very beginning. It started with the cooperation with the Czech Police and other units of the IRS and the Czech Armed Forces during the closure of the municipalities of Litovel and Uničov. It continued with the involvement of members of the MP in all operations to manage the coronavirus crisis, such as sealing off and guarding areas, helping in hospitals, escorting convoys with material and others. The involvement of our members in the various operation centres, not only at the level of the MoD and the Czech Army, but also at the regional crisis headquarters, proved to be very effective and beneficial. This ensured the constant coordination of the activities of the MP with the Czech Armed Forces and other components of the IRS, and we were able to continuously respond to the arising requirements not only for the allocation of persons from the MP to individual operations, but especially for the immediate performance of our tasks of police protection of the Ministry of Defence, because this basic task of the MP is not removed from us even in times of crisis. Even now, we are always ready to help in the fight against the pandemic, as well as other tasks that will be set before us.
What impact has covid-19 had on overall MP training over the past months and how can it possibly affect planned future activities?
The training of not only the MPs but also other components of the Czech Armed Forces has been significantly affected by the measures taken during the crisis. We have had to comply with strict hygiene measures and related training restrictions. Training in larger units in particular suffered. In some months, the training was reduced only to the basic skills of weapon handling and shooting in order to ensure at least basic training of the members who had to perform daily tasks of the MP according to the Law 300/2013 on Military Police, protection of important objects, supply sections, protection of persons, transport and order service and others. The training had to continue, so to speak, at an unchanged intensity, especially for units that were deployed to foreign operations. For us, this was especially Afghanistan, the KAMBA mission and Mali, where we performed the tasks of police protection of the mission commander. Despite the fact that the overall intensity of training has been reduced over the last year and thus the training of MP members has been reduced, this has not had and will not have a major impact on our future activities not only in the Czech Republic but also abroad. We know what we need to focus on and I believe we can handle everything.
In your opinion, what has been achieved this year within the MP and vice versa?
I think that we have mainly managed to fulfil our basic task, and that is the police protection of the MoD in accordance with our law, that is the most important thing. When I took office, I set myself several goals that I would like to achieve and one of them was to improve coordination between the MP and the main component of the Czech Armed Forces, namely the Czech Army. I managed to convince the command of the Czech Army of the necessity of establishing liaison officers, the so-called Provost Marshals, advisors to commanders on issues of police protection of troops. They began to work at the Operations Command, the Ground Forces Command and the Logistics Agency. By all accounts, this decision was of great benefit not only to the MP, but also to the Czech Army. This was particularly evident during the coronavirus crisis. At the beginning of the new year, we will carry out a more detailed evaluation of the operation of these bodies and, in cooperation with the Czech Army, we will address the possible extension to other components of the Army.
Unfortunately, what we failed to do was to pass the amendment to Law 300/2013 on the Military Police. We urgently need the amendment to secure or improve the legal situation in the performance of tasks, especially in the field of transport and order service, in the performance of tasks abroad, increased authorization on the territory of the Republic towards foreign armies, especially in providing support for their movements and operations on our territory, and other important changes. The draft amendment to the Act passed quite smoothly through the internal and extra-ministerial comment procedure, was approved by the Government, but subsequently the coronavirus crisis intervened in the approval process and our amendment was not a priority and therefore was not discussed in the Chamber of Deputies. We will be tabling an amendment to our Bill again, and I believe we will succeed this time.
What is the state of the current equipment and armament of the MP? What are you satisfied with, and what are you lacking?
One of the objectives I set when I assumed office was to ensure a meaningful replacement process for the acquisition of equipment, armaments and material. Replacement of these commodities must be done continuously so that there is no accumulation of needs from year to year. In cooperation with the Minister of Defence, the various sections of the MoD and the Czech Army, we have succeeded in initiating the replacement of particularly obsolete equipment, armaments and material. Over the last two years, we have purchased and replaced almost 200 pieces of equipment necessary for the fulfilment of the tasks of all components of the Defence Forces. These were vehicles for the protective service, for the protection of persons, and the largest numbers for the traffic and order and criminal services. The pyrotechnic and canine services received new vehicles. We were able to purchase and add motorcycles for the traffic service, which proved very useful in the performance of our tasks. After a long time, we managed to purchase 2 buses for the headquarters in Olomouc and Tabor, and the purchase of Tatra vehicles is in the pipeline. In cooperation with the Czech Army, Toyota Hilux off-road vehicles will be gradually purchased, thus cancelling and displacing unprofitable and obsolete Land Rover vehicles. 20 of these vehicles should be delivered this year and 50 more by the end of 2024. These vehicles will mainly be for our Emergency and Supply Protection departments.
We are not lagging behind in terms of equipment. We are in the process of purchasing and replacing all types of weapons required for the fulfilment of the tasks of the individual units of the IR. This is coordinated and carried out in cooperation with the Czech Armed Forces, in particular with the Czech Armed Forces. If it is possible and we do not need any special armament, we proceed in accordance with the purchases of the Czech Armed Forces. Thus, we purchase 300 CZ Bren 2 rifles, Minimi machine guns, new shotguns, sniper rifles. For some selected units, such as personnel protection, pyrotechnicians, dog handlers, object protection, escort department, we plan to purchase submachine guns of the CZ Scorpion EVO or HK 4,6x30 MP 7 PDW type. And of course we are continuously renewing Glock pistols.
This year we have acquired a new state-of-the-art SOM 6 protection and monitoring system, and we are upgrading the existing SOM 3 and SOM 5 systems so that all systems are compatible and can be deployed together to increase our ability to perform police protection. To also keep up with modern trends, we intend to procure unmanned assets to enhance police protection of selected facilities.
All these purchases and upgrades of equipment, weapons and material are not done haphazardly. We have developed a Concept for the Development of the MP until 2025, which has been elaborated by the MP Development Council into individual areas and services, and individual purchases are made based on the results of the Council's deliberations. In short, we know what we want and what we need and we are trying to implement it in a targeted manner. Having summarised a little bit the results of what we have achieved over the last two years in terms of material, armament and equipment, I can say that there is no major problem that has significantly affected our activities.
General, your name has come up in connection with the planned promotion of generals. If I'm not mistaken, you will become the first MP chief in modern history to reach the rank of major general. What do you think?
It is true that my name was on the list for appointment to the rank of general on October 28, 2021, which was approved by the Government, but the whole process was stalled and I don't know what the status of the process is at present. Even if it had gone through, I certainly would not have been the first MP chief to attain the rank of Major General. The first was Maj. Gen. Ing. Jiří Šrámek - the first Chief of the Military Police, then Maj. Gen. Ing. Oldřich Kubát, who commanded the Military Police from 2003 to 2009. I would just like to add that some former chiefs of the MP have reached the same or higher rank within the Czech Armed Forces, for example the current Deputy Chief of General Staff - Inspector of the Czech Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Ing. Milan Schulc, MSc, or former Chief of General Staff General Ing. Josef Bečvář.
Recently, the Military Police did a top job in rescue operations in Afghanistan, for which, for example, the captain of the KAMBA Military Police unit was awarded the Medal for Heroism. On social media, people often ask why the above-mentioned rescue operations were conducted by the Military Police instead of soldiers who are directly trained for this activity. What would you say about this?
The Military Police KAMBA unit was assigned to protect the embassy in Kabul, in particular to protect the ambassador and the embassy staff. I am very happy and proud that the entire unit fulfilled its priority task and, thanks to the personal bravery and determination of the unit commander, was instrumental in the successful evacuation of persons from Afghanistan to the Czech Republic. The development of the situation in Afghanistan was so dynamic that the first phase of the evacuation of the embassy and the people had to be carried out by the MP Protection Team. The whole activity was coordinated by the Operations Command in cooperation with other entities and at a certain stage the special forces, which are also trained for this type of operations, were involved.
Criminal investigations are also within the remit of the MP. What kind of crimes does this jurisdiction cover? In this respect, does the MP have a similar structure to the Criminal Police and Investigation Service, i.e. investigators, operatives, analysts, etc.?
The Military Police can conduct investigations since 2016, when the Criminal Procedure Code was amended. We investigate all crimes that are listed in the special part of the Criminal Code. The Criminal Service of the Military Police is located directly in the organizational structure of the Military Police Headquarters. It has two departments and three separate divisions with nationwide coverage. The first department of the Criminal Service has three divisions and deals mainly with general crime. The second department deals mainly with serious economic crime and consists of two divisions. Separate departments provide analytical, technical, methodological and professional support to all units of the Criminal Service, as well as to other entities of the National Police.
The organisational structure of the Criminal Service also includes the Criminalistic Technology and Expertise Department (OKTE), which carries out expert and expert activities not only for the MP but also for other security forces. There is also an Active Reserve Unit within the structure of the Criminal Service, whose members, when called up for military exercises, may carry out certain activities in accordance with the legislation in force. The composition of the Criminal Service of the MP is similar to that of the Police of the Czech Republic, i.e. investigators, operatives, criminalistics technicians, analysts, experts, methodologists and other specialties have their place in its structure. Similarly, the criminal service of the MP provides round-the-clock call-out groups for immediate dispatch to the crime scene.
After the abolition of the SOG, which was under the MP, is there any MP task force at present, popularly speaking?
In the organisational structure of the headquarters of the Military Police in Olomouc and Tabor, there are emergency departments with individual intervention groups. Members of the Military Police, the Czech Armed Forces, and other armed forces are selected for these units, and they subsequently undergo demanding training in all areas so that they are able to perform all tasks, from traffic and order services, protection of persons, and intervention against dangerous offenders. For example, these officers have been supplementing the KAMBA Military Police units in Afghanistan in individual rotations and are the basis of the MP units allocated to NATO and missions.
General, do you see any difference in being under the Ministry of Defence instead of the General Staff?
The fundamental difference between subordination under the MoD or the General Staff is that when the MP is under the direct authority of the Minister of Defence, he has jurisdiction over the entire Ministry, that is, the entire armed forces and all MoD entities. If the MP is subordinated to the General Staff, it would have jurisdiction only over the Czech Army. This means that the entire Ministry of Defence, individual sections, departments, as well as members of the Military Office of the President of the Republic and the Castle Guard would not fall under the jurisdiction of the Military Police, which does not make sense. Those efforts to place the Military Police under the General Staff have hopefully come to an end, at least I have not seen anything like that during my time as Chief of the Military Police.
What will be your next steps as a two-star general in the coming years? Are you already thinking about your successor?
Whether or not I will be appointed to the rank of major general, I really don't know. It is entirely in the hands of the Minister of Defence, the Government and the President of the Republic, but it will not have any major impact on my work and the performance of the tasks of the Military Police. As far as my further service is concerned, I am almost clear on that. I have a commitment until the end of 2022, and I will most likely not extend it. I'll have been in uniform for 40 years, so it's probably time for me to retire. Of course, I can quit at any time because the Chief of Military Police is an appointed position and it is up to the Secretary of Defense to decide whether I continue or be removed. For that reason too, of course, I am thinking about my successor. I have an idea who that should be and if my superior wants to hear it, I will be happy to propose a candidate.