Ceremonial arrival of soldiers after returning from a foreign operation in Slovakia, February 17, 2023, Prague. Minister of Defense Jana Černochová (ODS), Chief of the General Staff Karel Řehka.
Prague – Minister of Defense Jana Černochová (ODS) and Chief of the General Staff Karel Řehka at noon in Prague's Vítkov honored the Czech soldiers who served and commanded the multinational combat group in Slovakia within the framework of the North Atlantic Alliance. 450 soldiers returned from the base in Lešt, Slovakia, after a six-month mission last December. Together with them, Slovenia, Germany, the United States and Slovakia also sent their soldiers there in direct response to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Today, Colonel Jiří Pazděra, who commanded the Czech soldiers in Leště, received the Meritorious Cross of the third degree. Today, seven soldiers, including Ladislav Bujárek, who commanded the multinational NATO combat group in Slovakia for almost half a year, received the badge of honor “for meritorious performance of combat duties and exemplary representation of the Czech Republic”. Černochová together with the deputy Slovenian ambassador Nika Rotarová also handed over commemorative coins and material gifts.
Hundreds of soldiers filled the court of honor of the National Memorial in Vítkovo, and hundreds of their family members watched the ceremony. It was the families that Řehka thanked, according to whom they deserve an award at least as much as the soldiers.
“We are united, determined and ready to defend our freedom,” Černochová said, adding that this attitude helps deter a potential aggressor. She praised the soldiers for building a “perfectly functioning team”, and mentioned the difficulties of working at the newly created base.
At the end of the ceremony, the military band played the Slovak and Czech national anthems.
NATO unit in Slovakia was formed under the command of the Czech Republic after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last spring in order to strengthen the eastern wing of the alliance. Ground units are stationed in the Lešť military area near the village of Pliešovce in central Slovakia, while members of the air defense are stationed at the Sliač air base. Czech colonel Karel Navrátil has been the commander of the multinational battle group since December, he took over command from Bujárek after the planned rotation of soldiers.
The unit has been fully operational since September, currently has about 1,000 soldiers, of which about 450 are from the Czech Republic. In addition to the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the United States sent their soldiers to the group, and a Slovak mortar platoon is also part of it. The currently largest foreign mission of the Czech army has a mandate from the Chamber of Deputies until the end of 2024.