On January 28, 2020, Colonel David Martínek assumed command of the Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Centre of Excellence (JCBRN Defence COE) from Colonel Vratislav Osvald during the Change of Command Ceremony. The ceremony took place at Garrison Hall of the Training Command of the Military Academy in Vyškov, Czech Republic. The First Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Jaromír Zůna, presided over the Change of Command Ceremony.

More than 40 distinguished guests attended the ceremony including civilian representatives of the city of Vyškov; Senior military officers from the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic and neighbour countries; representative from NATO HQ; Defence Attachés of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Great Britain and the United States of America, Steering Committee members from Austria, Germany, Italy, Romania and Slovakia; Directors of the NATO Explosive Ordnance Disposal Centre of Excellence (EOD COE), NATO Military Medicine Centre of Excellence (MILMED COE), NATO Counter Intelligence Centre of Excellence (CI COE); the Chairman of Framework Nation Concept (FNC) Cluster CBRN Protection;and former Directors of the JCBRN Defence COE.

Change of Command Ceremony

At the beginning of the ceremony, the outgoing Director handed over the JCBRN Defence COE flag as a symbolic baton* of command to the new Director. LTG Zůna provided congratulatory remarks to both outgoing and incoming Directors and the Centre. He stated: “It is a great honour for me to open this ceremony at one of the most successful NATO’s Centre of Excellence that has been working for almost 15 years with the gradually growing number of Sponsoring Nations (13) and one Contributing Partner (AUT). I strongly believe that this number will increase.” These remarks were followed by Jiříček Jaromír, as the NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) representative, who highlighted the invaluable contributions the JCBRN Defence COE is providing to the Alliance. The ceremony was concluded with the remarks of the outgoing and incoming directors. Colonel Osvald acknowledged the work of the COE and its personnel, and wished the new director all the best in his new position; specifically: “My vision of the COE has always been to be the most beneficial institution to NATO and sponsoring nations, think unthinkable, propose new non-traditional ways and serve as a think-tank for the future. And I hope we were able to meet this vision. I wish the new director continued success in furthering the development of CBRN Defence in the way to ensure full protection against CBRN threats to our military and our population as our primary effort regardless political and military situation supports that or not”.

The new Director, Colonel Martínek, stated that it is not just an honour but also a great responsibility being the director of the JCBRN Defence COE. During his speech, he mentioned his vision to the future: „In the years to come, we will continue to build on our strengths, but also adapt to the new challenges and rapidly changing environment. This will require hard work, open minds and innovative approach. I firmly believe this is achievable by establishing dialogue, building trust, increasing efficiency, and focusing on accountability. I am confident that we can manage this together, relying on the professionalism and dedication of you, the JCBRN Defence COE staff”.

Guided tour through the JCBRN Defence COE

After the official part of the ceremony, the guests had the unique opportunity to get a guided tour through the JCBRN Defence COE. They went to see the Operation Support Department (OSD), where the guests visited the NATO CBRN Reachback operations room and the Modelling & Simulation section. They received briefings with a particular emphasis on their unique capabilities as the NATO CBRN Reachback providing exceptional expertise acting as a focal point for technical CBRN queries for NATO and providing technical advice and support to the Sponsoring Nations/Contributing Partner as well as NATO bodies.

Banquet

Following the tours, the guests and COE members were invited by both Directors to a banquet. The Military Band of Czech Armed Forces led by MAJ Gustav Foret and folkloric ensemble Ondráš supported both this banquet and the change of command ceremony with a great selection of music, they made these events more dignified by their professionalism and skill.

Visit of the Battle of Austerlitz Museum

After the Banquet, on a voluntary basis. Colonel Martínek, Distinguished Guests and COE’s staff officers, visited the nearby historical Battle of Austerlitz site, which commemorates the 1805 battle. A group picture was taken in front of the Cairn of Peace Memorial, built in the Art Nouveau style in 1910 – 1912. This memorial was constructed to commemorate all soldiers who have lost their lives during the Battle of Austerlitz. All participants were touched by the unique atmosphere and acknowledged the gratitude that we are living in a more peaceful time.

This was a dignified conclusion to the monumental and significant day for the JCBRN Defence COE and its members, and the Director, Colonel Martínek, thanked everyone for their attendance and support in making this a meaningful, professional and successful day.

* A change of command ceremony is a military tradition that represents a formal transfer of authority and responsibility from one to another. The passing of colours, standards, or ensigns from an outgoing commander to an incoming ensures that the unit and its soldiers are never without official leadership, a continuation of trust, and signifies an allegiance of soldiers to their unit’s commander.

The change of command ceremony is rooted in military history dating back to the 18th century when organisational flags were developed with colour arrangements and symbols unique to each unit. When a change of command took place, the flag was passed to the individual assuming the command. This gesture was accomplished in front of the unit so that all could see and witness their new leader assuming his dutiful position. He who held the flag also held the soldier’s allegiance. This symbolic tradition has survived throughout military history.

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Author: CPT Zuzana KRALIKOVA (CZE-A)

Photos: Military Academy