Playing A Soldier? Try It First

In Czechs on July 20, 2007 by Petr Bokuvka

Czech director Vaclav Marhoul is about to make his film named Tobruk. A war epic. To make the movie more realistic, the actors are now racticing for their upcoming roles in a military base near Vyskov, Southern Moravia. Some of the actors are making fun of it because they never really had to serve in the army. They have what Czechs call(ed) the Blue Book. An official piece of paper saying that the man is unable to serve in the army due to his bad health.

The Czech Republic now has a professional army. It hasn’t always been so and the growing pains of the professional forces were long and painful for many. Until 2004 the Czech Republic (and before that Czechoslovakia) had mandatory one-year (and long time ago even two-year) military service. Since the fall of communism in 1989 many people were calling for professional army but it took another 14 years to make it real.

During those 14 years of freedom young college graduates who just got their diplomas had to forget about finding jobs and starting to make money because they had to dress in green and start doing pointless things. Some young people were even approached by their prospective employers during the last year of university. Come work for us. The money is good and all the benefits as well… Too bad. It had to wait for one year.

A young educated man is more useful to his country as a taxpayer than as a one-year soldier. During this time the men didn’t learn anything. At least most of them. They would come home after the one year and start telling stories about sleeping on the guard duty or trying to get away from other duties and inventing new things to do so.

Not just that, the semi-professional army was full of half-brained higher-rank officers (Lt. and above) who treated the young enlisted men as prisoners. Sometimes the promotion system was such that a 25 year-old college graduate was being yelled at by a 18-year old low-life who didn’t even complete high school…

Director Vaclav Marhoul is doing the right thing when he orders the actors to know the atmosphere for the roles they will play. Good thing they can laugh. I didn’t laugh until June 2004 and everytime I heard In The Army now on the radio, I wanted to scream by lungs off…


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