Minister honours soldiers who returned from Mali

Autor: Oldrich Holecek

Soldiers of the 1st ACR Unit who served in the EU Training Mission in the Republic of Mali lined up at the National Memorial in Prague-Vitkov on Friday 4 October 2013 to receive awards and decorations from Minister of Defence Vlastimil Picek.

The first task of the thirty-four strong Czech unit was to guard Headquarters of the EU TM in the capital of Bamako, accompany persons and escort transport convoys. Czechs also participated in training of personnel of Malian Army in cooperation with French soldiers.

“The Mali's mission enriched us with experience that we had the opportunity to be the first Czech unit deployed on the Afircan continent. So far, we were used to serve in Afghanistan or Kosovo. In this mission, we found out, how it is about in other missions. Our approach had to be quite different, and this I consider to be the greatest benefit,“ First Lieutenant Marek Stepanek, commander of the unit, explained. “The cooperation with all participating units of the European Union was at the very good level. I cannot also complain about cooperation with Mailan Army. We had to get used to lower security level. In Afghanistan, we had to observe rather higher standard in this respect.“

Minister Picek said that the Czech Republic had joined other EU countries in a bid to help stabilise situation in Mali. “Two weeks ago, I visited Mali and I had become convinced the situation had substantially improved. Free presidential election was held, the economy revives and the society becomes more consolidated,“ Minister said. “Soldiers, it was a non-combat mission, but it does not by far mean that it was easy. I thank to all of you for the exemplary meeting the task. Not only to your coalition partners but also among local population you did leave the best impressioin. You are reliable allies and good friends. Welcome home.“

Chief of the General Staff of ACR Lieutenant General Petr Pavel also thanked soldiers for their good work and added that their mission was the first step of our military on the African continent. “The Malian Army is very small compared to size of their country and is not sufficiently equipped. Our contribution in training personnel of several battalions is just the foundation. It can be expected that the European Union could soon start talks on how to provide additional assistance to the build-up of the whole system of the Malian military.“

First Lieutenant Stepanek, who commanded the unit from mid-March to 14 September 2013, received from Minister Picek the Cross of Merits, others were awarded by Honorary Badge of ACR "In Merits", and Medal "For Service Abroad - Africa, Grade III".

Posted: October 6, 2013