Josef Bečvář, retired army general, became president of Glomex Military Supplies (Glomex MS) in January 2019.He had served in the army for a total of 45 years. He left the army in summer 2018 after reaching the highest position – that of the Chief of the General Staff. At the age of 60, he started a brand-new career as a private sector manager.
Foto: Josef Bečvář | army.cz
His interest in technology brought him to the army
Josef Bečvář´s interest in military technology brought him into the army. “I grew up in the countryside in West Bohemia, my parents worked in agriculture. There were several military units in the vicinity, so I often saw soldiers in my childhood, and I enjoyed watching their equipment.” This eventually led him to try studying at the military secondary school in Moravská Třebová. “It was interesting to see that the applicants had to take a demanding preparatory course prior to the actual entrance exams,” adds Josef Bečvář.
Bečvář was accepted and went to pursue his studies in a town three hundred kilometres away from his home. At the age of fourteen, he had to stand on his own. “Back then, communication means and transport connections were not as they are today. We went home only a few times a year,” recalls Josef Bečvář. The military secondary school offered mostly general education and students were expected to acquire further military expertise at university level s. That is why after completing school, Bečvář moved further away from his native village – he started studying at the Military Command and Technical School in Martin, Slovakia, where he specialized in missile troops and artillery.
From combat units to military police
After graduating from university, Josef Bečvář started to serve at combat units. He joined the army in 1981 and worked his way up from the bottom. After commanding a firing squad and a battery he started working at the Missile Troops and Artillery Main Directorate within the Ministry of Defence. He thus qualified for postgraduate studies, which he pursued between 1986 and 1989 at the Military Academy of Brno. He returned to combat units as senior officer at division level and he served in staff positions where he could apply his expertise. In 1990, it became apparent that the armed forces had to undergo a radical transformation. The size of the military was reduced, many units were dissolved, but, at the same time, new sections were being established. One of them was the military police and Josef Bečvář joined it in 1991. “It was clear to me that the combat units were to be significantly scaled down. The newly established military police looked a good prospect, so I decided to change my green (ground forces) beret for a black (police) one,” he says.
Working for the military police also gave him the possibility of further education at specialized schools abroad and this brought him to France. In 1993, Josef Bečvář was sent to a gendarmerie course in Melun, France. “I don’t know where the idea came from, but, as a kid, I felt a desire to live in France for a stretch of time. I even hung a map of France on the wall of my room. Thanks to the army, my dream came true,” says Josef Bečvář. In the course of his military service, he returned to France several times: he completed his education for senior command posts at the Collège Interarmées de Défense of Paris by the end of the 1990s and he served as defence attaché in France from 2004 to 2007 and from 2011 to 2014.
Serving in the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces
Josef Bečvář continued to climb the career ladder. In 1999, he became the chief of the military police and in 2003 he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Another turning point in his career came in 2007 upon his return from France, where he had served as a defence attaché for three years. Bečvář was appointed as director of the Force Development Division. “It is a post in which you focus on developing all parts of the army in more detail than the Chief of the General Staff himself. This was a unique experience,” he comments. Bečvář was subsequently promotedto Deputy Chief of the General Staff and in 2011, he went to France as defence attaché for the second time. Upon his return in 2014, he became First Deputy Chief of the General Staff. His career culminated on 1stMay 2015, when he was appointed as Chief of the General Staff by the President of the Czech Republic. One year later, he achieved the highest military rank – that of an Army General.
Image: Josef Bečvář, Chief of the General Staff of Czech Armed Forces, taking part in a NATO exercise, 2015 | Wikimedia Commons
He took office at a time when the economy was growing, politicians were willing to increase defence spending and the need for major modernization and armaments projects was being emphasized. In this context, Bečvář managed to carry through the Concept of the Czech Armed Forces up to 2025, which was approved by the Czech government. The entire Czech army is now being gradually re-equipped under this strategic document.
Building the active reserves was another significant accomplishment achieved by Bečvářduring his service as Chief of the General Staff. Thanks to new legislation and a new concept the long-neglected active reserves became a well-respected and important part of the Czech Armed Forces and they have no shortage of applicants. The Czech army had onlyone thousand active reservists in 2015. Since then, their number hastripled.
Image: General Bečvář congratulates the three best participants of the preparation course for active reservists in Vyškov | army.cz
The relationships between reservists and their employers have also improved. This was due to Bečvář and his team making the active reserves more attractive in terms of remuneration, equipment and exercise content.
Josef Bečvář lefthis post ofChief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forceson30thApril 2018 and was succeeded by Aleš Opata. Just like other soldiers who became generals, he faced a dilemma about whether to start a new career at a late age or not.
Image: Josef Bečvář with General Petr Pavel | army.cz
Starting a new career at the age of 60
“I hate the word retirement,” says Bečvář.He confirms that in his case, retirement was not an option, although he turned 60 last year and had spent 45 years in the army. “Toward the end of my service at the General Staff, I gave an interview to the Czech daily Právo and I said that I would not make contacts with the arms industry to prepare the way for a future career until my service had come to an end, but then I would keep my options open. I kept my word,” explained Bečvář when he joined Glomex Military Supplies.
In fact, his path to this employer was not so straightforward. Retired generals usually have several options. First, they can take up a new post in the public sector, but adequate positions (e. g. those of ambassadors) are rare. Second, they can try their luck in municipal or even national politics. Finally, they can join the private sector – and they are most likely to work in the security industry or in the defence industry. The latter option is a common practice both in the Czech Republic and in other NATO countries: former Czech generals and senior army officers are being employed by important players in the defence industry, such as, for example, the Czechoslovak Group, Česká zbrojovka, Pramacom, Omnipol, STV Group or SVOS Přelouč.
Image: “I hate the word retirement,” says Bečvář. He confirms that in his case, retirement was not an option, although he turned 60 last year | army.cz
Former soldiers who start working in the arms industry rarely communicate this to the public and the same goes for the companies, which do not tend to announce that they have hired former army officers, colonels or generals unless journalists start asking questions. This leads to a variety of speculations about whether army officers develop relationships to companies while they are still on active duty, about conflicts of interest, lobbying for corporate projects and disclosures of classified information.
Josef Bečvář is one of the first high-ranking Czech soldiers to openly communicate his transition to the private sector. “I vowed to myself that I would not reach out to arms companies until the end of my service (which came several months after my tenure as Chief of the General Staff had expired), although I might seek career opportunities in the private sector when I leave the army. I kept that promise. I spent several months waiting to see whether I any interesting opportunity would occur within the public sector, but the proposal remained vague. After the NATO Days in Ostrava, I got in touch with several defence companies. In autumn, I decided to work in the private sector and considered several opportunities. After careful consideration, I opted for Glomex Military Supplies,” says Bečvář.
In January 2019, Josef Bečvář became president of Glomex Military Supplies, a not-so-well-known yet very successful medium-sized company that grew thanks to providing special forces and air forces with arms and equipment. The company has been increasing its capacities and providing maintenance for the Czech army’s planes such as Airbus A-319 and Yak-40. “Readers may not believe it, but I first chose the company without actually considering what post I was going to be offered,” says Bečvář. “I did not want to join a large corporation, because I would have only limited opportunities to influence it and I would I would probably serve more of a representative role as former Chief of the General Staff. I wanted to become a manager and the environment of a successful and dynamic medium-sized company was the perfect choice for me. I can learn new skills and grow with the company.”
Image: In January 2019, Josef Bečvář became president of Glomex Military Supplies, a not-so-well-known yet very successful medium-sized company
Bečvář firmly rejects any speculations about a possible conflict of interests or about him receiving preferential treatment from the company owner. “As a soldier, I never came into contact with Glomex MS. I first learned about the existence of the company, when I was discussing the A-319 and Yak-40 aircraft maintenance project. These orders were placed by the civilian part of the Ministry of Defence and, to my knowledge, Glomex MS had to fight hard to be awarded these contracts in open competitions. I first got in touch with Glomex MS after I had left the army. And last but not least, unlike other colleagues who joined arms companies, I agreed to openly communicate my arrival at the company to journalists and security professionals,” he says.
To conclude, Josef Bečvář says: “I would like to thank the army for everything it has given me during my 45-year-long service. If I had to decide again, I wouldn’t change anything about my career. At the same time, I would like to express my gratitude to the owner of Glomex MS for the trust he placed in me when he made me president of this company. A new and exciting chapter of my career is starting, and I can continue working towards the security of the Czech Republic and its allies.”
Image: “If I had to decide again, I wouldn’t change anything about my career,” says Josef Bečvář