The journey from law offices to heading the Military Police
Brigadier General Pavel Kříž studied Law at university in Plzeň, then at the University of Greifswald’s Faculty of Law and Economics. He worked for a law firm in Germany, then undertook practice within the German judiciary and at the bar. He found the work and relations in large law firms did not nourish him and in 2006 he joined the Military Police.
He also studied in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the George G Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany and for the Peace Center in Turkey. In 2011-2012, he participated in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Since 1 June, he has been the head of the Military Police, reporting directly to the Czech Republic’s Minister of Defence. Pavel Kříž is married with three children.
General, first of all I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Brigadier General, a rank you have received at the age of 39 after 11 years of service. Are you the youngest general in history?
Thank you for your congratulations. I see my appointment to the rank of Brigadier General more as an appreciation of the work of all military police officers.
Incidentally, I am not the youngest general in the history of the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia. I believe this was Ludvík Krejčí, who became Brigadier General at the age of 33.
But you arrived in your career in the Military Police the long way round through the judiciary and the bar. Working in a large law firm did not suit you, however. I can appreciate this; confronted with reality, quite a lot of young people choose to leave large corporations. But you’re the first to leave for the Military Police. What led you to this decision?
The possible disillusionment you mention can probably happen in any sector, including the legal sector. I was lucky that I enjoyed my work, but I didn’t find quite the fulfilment I was looking for in it. Since I had always been an enthusiast of sport and hard physical exercise in general, for me it was a logical step to try working in one of the armed forces, perhaps the police or army. In the end, it was a compromise of the two and the Military Police came out on top. And considering the position of legal advisor to the MP’s Special Operations Unit I held, I also remained “loyal” to law, which I enjoy.
You were part of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, for which you were also awarded a Grade III medal for Service in the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic, and a Non-Article 5 NATO medal, ISAF Operation. What has this mission given you, not just from a professional perspective, but also personally?
Experience abroad is always a great lesson. Contending with different nationalities, different mentalities, habits, the approach to carrying out one’s duties, perception of time and values; this is something that is hard to equate to anything else and describe: you just have to experience it. When on top of all that you are also being deployed in a war zone, the effects of everything I have just mentioned are multiplied about a dozenfold.
So to summarise my experience in a few words – it was an experience you can’t get in the Czech Republic, at both a professional and personal level.
Do you miss being on missions abroad? Does soldiers’ willingness to be deployed in missions change once they’ve started a family?
Before I was appointed head of the MP, I did want to go abroad at least one more time, which I guess won’t surprise you after what I’ve just said. But now it’s not realistic, and so I’m not even considering the issue. I know I can’t, so there’s no point in thinking about it.
The second part of your question would probably need a whole psychological study. I can hardly speak for anyone else, but in my case my willingness has not changed though I am more aware of possible consequences should anything happen. Personally, I think soldiers’ willingness and engagement do not change; in my opinion service abroad is a welcome challenge for most soldiers.
What does the public not know about what the Military Police do and should know?
I suppose not everyone knows what the Military Police’s actual mission is. The public usually associate us with the guarding of certain important buildings, or perhaps accompanying motorcades on visits to the Defence Ministry. The Military Police’s activities, however, go much wider. Some of our key services include not just the protection of buildings, people and entourages, but also traffic and enforcement services, protecting planes and flights, protecting supply facilities (formerly munitions depots), military pyrotechnic services, cynology services focused on finding drugs, weapons, munitions and explosives, and criminal services.
You are a public servant; is it possible to plan where your career will take you next?
There have been discussions for many years within defence on the necessity of progressively implementing a career system set up so that every soldier has an idea of how his career will develop in future. This should apply to soldiers across all ranks and all positions. Considering the role I hold, it is clear that in terms of career growth there is nowhere further for me to go within the Military Police, but a huge challenge for me is securing the Military Police’s further development and staff stabilisation. Recently, the Minister signed off on the MP Development Concept up to 2025 and one of the great tasks in front of me is to execute this progressively so it does not remain merely on paper.
What are your thoughts on reintroducing compulsory military service?
Personally, I don’t think we should go back to the model that used to be here, the compulsory year of basic national service. Considering how the technology we use today is developing, professional armed forces are clearly the right choice. On the other hand, I believe that all young men should be able to handle a weapon to a basic level, and be physically, morally and mentally prepared to serve their country if required. I think there is a lack of a sense of real patriotism and a certain respect for history in today’s society. This might sound a little emotive, but what bothers me the most is when I come across people who just hold their hand out but don’t offer anything themselves; they expect to receive but don’t offer anything themselves. As J F Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
By Linda Štucbartová