Ivo Heinz: Active Rezerve never trains together with the Czech Army, we are the Czech Army!
The interest in joining the Active Reserve (AR) of the Czech Army has recently multiplied tenfold, especially after Russia invaded Ukraine. The interest in voluntary exercises is growing as well. According to the sources of the Czech Armed Forces, almost 1,400 people have applied to join the Active Reserve since mid-February, and over 500 have applied for voluntary exercises. We asked Maj. Mgr. Ivo Heinz, deputy commander of the 72nd Mechanised Battalion (AR) and advisor to the Minister of Defence for AR.
Picture: Mjr. Mgr. Ivo Heinz (left) | AR 72nd Mechanized Battalion / Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic
Major, the Active Reserve exercise in Přáslavice has just ended. What specifically did you train and what condition do you think the AR soldiers are in?
Our exercises have been planned for a long time. Given the long break during the pandemic and the arrival of new soldiers, it is focused on the basic skills of the individual. For most soldiers in AR, it is a refresher exercise, but for some of the new recruits, it is knowledge and skills that they are still acquiring. Hand grenade throwing, small arms fire - BREN, PHANTOM, MINIMI, RPG, and the submachine gun. Movement of the soldier around the battlefield, as an individual, in pairs and in larger groups, the patrol and its reaction to fire, withdrawal and charge. Topography. Drivers have driving training, especially practical driving including retraining on HILUX vehicles, engineers and reconnaissance group have specialist training with battalion specialists. Drivers of combat vehicles practice their knowledge and skills at least to a limited extent. At the same time, the first part of the basic mortar operator's course, which was originally scheduled to take place a year ago but was cancelled for epidemiological reasons, is underway.
Picture: March training of a mechanized company | AR 72nd Mechanized Battalion / Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic
Does the training structure respond in any way to the current threats?
There has always been intensive training; the response to current threats is to monitor information from combat and evaluate it in terms of small unit tactics. In general, AR exercises have picked up again. Every unit and the Regional Military Commands have several exercises scheduled this year. Different AR units are training at different levels of proficiency, depending on how well they have managed to keep up the pace of training during the strict epidemiological measures. I assume that elsewhere they are also responding to the current situation by monitoring it and taking the necessary information from it to use in their training.
You mentioned the pandemic measures, do these still limit the course of the AR exercises in any way and is it possible to organise joint training with the Czech Armed Forces?
There have been additional training courses for the AR. In January, some were still limited, but now the health restrictions are minimal and the courses are running. I would like to correct you here: AR never trains together with the Czech Army, we are the Czech Army! We train under the guidance of enlisted soldiers from the battalion combat training group and a few selected instructors from professional companies.
Picture: Soldiers from the battalion's combat training group and a few selected instructors from professional companies train under the guidance of the soldiers. (illustration photo) | AR 72nd Mechanized Battalion / Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic
Reportedly, last year, they started taking over new equipment for the reservists. There was talk of BREN 2 rifles, helmets, vests, night vision, etc. What is the current situation in your battalion?
We all finally have new helmets now that the inappropriate sizes originally supplied have been replaced. Neither we nor the soldiers in our battalion have BREN 2 rifles yet, nor do we have vests, except for our own. We can borrow night vision in small quantities from professional companies. I don't have detailed information on other AR units, so I don't know where they stand in terms of night vision, vests, or other equipment. However, we have been supplied with equipment that was previously missing (ECWS kits, Termo jacket M 2010, etc.). With the exception of a few pieces (inappropriate size), everyone has what they need.
What is fundamentally lacking is combat equipment. There is enough transport equipment in the battalion, but either only for soldiers in the AR or only for professional soldiers, not for all at the same time. Planning the operation of the equipment places great demands on logistics.
What is the current equipment of AR units in general? What is missing?
In general, the equipment situation in AR has improved and has been completed in all AR units. There have been some minor problems with some sizes, which are continuously being resolved. Helmets have also been issued everywhere, but the problems with non-fitting sizes are worse, hence the solution will take longer.
I don't have detailed information on other AR units, so I don't know where they stand in terms of night vision or vests or other equipment. However, the combat equipment assigned to AR is nowhere to be found, and the transport equipment assigned to AR is generally scarce, old and malfunctioning. There is a plan to improve this, I think it is worth waiting to see if it is implemented.
Picture: AR recruiting is currently in an interesting situation. The interest of citizens in joining the AR and the interest in voluntary military exercises has increased greatly. (illustration photo) | AR 72nd Mechanized Battalion / Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic
There has been a lot of interest in active reserve recruitment recently. So are you managing to recruit more people and what is the specific situation in your unit?
Recruitment in the AR is in an interesting situation at the moment. The interest of citizens in joining the AR has increased a lot, as well as the interest in voluntary military exercises. Of course, this means a lot more work for the recruitment office and for the military doctors who provide medical examinations. Both the Personnel Agency and the Military Health Section have a lot of extra work to do, but they are doing their best to manage everything. As far as our unit directly is concerned, there are plenty of interested ARs, the problem is the long time from when they contact the recruiting office to when they get to us. The overall situation, while somewhat improved from previous years, is still not good.
At the beginning of this year, Defence Minister Jana Černochová introduced the so-called Ten Commandments for Defence, which include, among other things, virtutal recruitment centres. At what stage is the virtual recruitment centre at and can we monitor the level of interest within individual regions?
The virtual recruitment centre is being prepared. It is very premature to comment on the Defence Decathlon, as all areas are long-term tasks. I do not know the distribution of interest by region, but in the long term there is a higher interest in the area around Ostrava and in the Central Bohemia region.