March 4, 2006:
As the Czech Republic shifts from conscription to an all volunteer force, it is also shrinking overall military manpower. This made it easier to pay the higher wages of professional troops.
When this process began in 2001, the army had 12,000 officers, and 10,000 NCOs. This was typical of Soviet style armed forces. But the new army would have more, and better paid, NCOs. Currently, the army has 7,329 officers and 16,510 NCOs. Rather than just dismiss all the unneeded officers, they were given the option of staying in the army, but at a lower rank. Some 3,500 officers accepted the offer. This is not a new solution to this problem. During the 1950s, as the United States was reducing the size of its armed forces after the Korean War, it had many combat experienced officers who had been NCOs. They had been promoted to officer rank during World War II or the Korean War. But, like many of the surplus Czech officers, the American "mustangs" (NCOs promoted to officer rank) didn't have a college degree, or the kind of credentials that would get them an officers commission in peacetime. So the U.S. Army offered these officers a lower rank, as an NCO. This way, these men could complete twenty years of active service, and still qualify for an officers pension (retiring at the highest rank held). This plan kept thousands of experienced leaders in the army, although at a lower rank. It worked then, it will probably work for the Czechs.