Conscription is to be abolished
New recruits to the Czech army are failing to meet the military fitness requirements, says the defence ministry in Prague.
The Czech Senate - the upper house of Parliament - is expected to pass a bill abolishing conscription in a vote next month, and the army needs some 3,300 new recruits to fill in behind the last concripts.
According to a defence ministry report, 14,020 people have applied to join the regular army, including 1,589 women, the Czech daily Lidove Noviny writes.
However, the ministry reports, about 30% of the applicants fail even the introductory physical fitness test, and the army has had to lower its standards.
"I'm glad that so many people are interested," Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl said. "While it's true that the army needs brains, these brains need to come with bodies that are in good shape too."
One of the problems in the fitness test is pull-ups on a hanging bar, the paper writes. Applicants under the age of 30 must do at least four pull-ups, and those over 30 have to manage at least three.
The military is addressing the problem by accepting some recruits who fail the fitness test, and giving them three months to train for the tests again. However, if they fail a second time, they are rejected.
Nearly half of the applicants are rejected during the initial interviews, and examinations in military hospitals weed out about 27% more the newspaper writes.
Then another 10% fail the fitness test at the recruitment centres.
"I would be happier if more of the applicants were potential future Olympic champions rather than people in poor condition," Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl said.
The Czech Republic joined Nato in 1999, and began a drive to reform the armed services to enable them to intregrate easily with other Nato forces.
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