From the waiter to the motorcycle squad of the Castle Guard // Humans of NATO Days

09.07.2023, 08:28

The Castle Guard is one of the three branches of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic. The display performed by its bikers is well known to regular visitors of the NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days, and those who do not know it should not miss it. But what tasks do the Castle Guard perform? Besides the President of the Republic, who do they accompany? And how do you recognize a pushy visitor to Prague Castle who wants to provoke a member of staff in the guardhouse? Last year, we interviewed company sergeant major Tomáš Petrik, a member of the motorcycle unit of the Castle Guard, who told us all about it.

How did you start at the Castle Guard?
I come from Olomouc. I got to know the Castle Guard after receiving a call-up order to the Castle Guard, where I completed my basic compulsory service between 2002 and 2003. Until then, I didn't know what the Castle Guard was. In civilian life, I worked as a waiter in Olomouc after the military service, but in 2007 I returned to Prague, because the job of a waiter was not able to offer me what service in the Army did.

So I joined the guard unit, where I served for almost 10 years. In 2016, I transferred within the Castle Guard to the escort and protection service group of the Castle Guard motorcycle unit.

I enjoyed working as a waiter, I studied that. Compared to the army, I have always lacked support in social security and other benefits for this job. Shortly after joining the Castle Guard, I was able to live independently, for example.

What does being a Castle Guard biker entail? Besides the president, who do you escort and what are your tasks?
The main tasks of the Castle Guard are the security of permanent and temporary residences of the President of the Republic, the security of protocol events at Prague Castle, including various appointments to positions, state visits, audiences.

Motorcycle unit ensures the escorts of the President of the Republic and other statesmen, such as presidents, prime ministers or ministers of foreign countries. The Castle Guard also ensures ceremonial acts, public holidays, various anniversaries. The motorcycle platoon also participates in these events, plus you can see us at events organized for the public such as NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days, the IDET military exhibition, or children's days held on various occasions. The motorcycle unit also provides annual escorts in connection with public holidays such as 28.9. – St. Wenceslas Day or 28.10. memorial service at Vítkov, and others.

We undergo regular training with the motorcycle, it is about getting the motorcycle under maximum control. Often this training takes place on closed areas of airports, such as the airport in Panenský Týnec or Bechyně. During training, we also try to cooperate with other Czech motorcycle units, such as the Police of the Czech Republic or the military police. A soldier-member of the Castle Guard motorcycle unit falls under the classic all-military training, which we complete as part of the training hours.

How difficult was it to learn castle protocol and the specifics of the Castle Guard service?
We are often subject to the castle protocol, so we follow it, it is where we get information about the security of individual acts and escorts. The service specifics of both the guard unit of the Castle Guard and the motorcycle unit of the Castle Guard are diverse. A soldier must know guard rules, laws on the use of weapons, the topography of guarded objects, you are subject to theoretical, tactical and physical training.

Service with the Castle Guard, as well as with other units, requires a medical examination and a security check according to the level of the position held. In the motorcycle unit, you must pass a psychological examination to operate a vehicle (motorcycle) with a special warning light and sound device. Service at the Castle Guard motorcycle unit is diverse. Our unit falls under the security company of the Castle Guard and with its cooperation we also provide surveillance service at the Castle Guard barracks. We provide a daily courier service to the military office of the President of the Republic and the Castle Guard.

What interesting experience can you share with us?
There are many such experiences. Both in the guard unit and now in the motorcycle unit, we often laugh. When a bunch of good guys are together, it's not hard to find a reason to laugh. I will mention an observation from the guard service. A classic is that people want to take pictures with you in the guardhouse. You can tell by the approaching group when the boys want to show off in front of the girls, that they will try to make you laugh, embarrass you, just be "the boss", but they no longer think about the fact that a soldier on an honourable fixed post has both his duties and his rights, which he they will help arrange order at the station. Visitors, especially young teenagers, are often shocked when you hit the ground with the butt of a weapon right next to them or push them away with your hand and accompany this action with a verbal instruction. A lot of times people think you can't even move.

There is no shortage of interesting experiences on a motorcycle. There are a lot of funny moments in traffic, they are rather driving mistakes of traffic participants, which you are aware of while working in traffic, and many times the one making the mistake has no idea.

Read also interviews with other people participating at NATO Days

There are a lot of interesting experiences while performing official tasks. These are, for example, interesting people you accompany, special events at which our escort is present, and unusual places you get to. We are unusual in traffic and of course people perceive us differently. Some are negative, they are able to consciously not avoid light and sound warning devices, or people at the roadside with threatening gestures. But there are a minimum of them. Most people on the road are considerate and sane, I have to commend that. Our reward is contact with the public at various public events, when people can ask us what they are interested in and we meet enthusiastic children and parents.

I will mention one story. I was leading a convoy with a colleague. This means that the two motorbikes in front of the convoy direct the traffic, stop the intersections, you create space for the convoy behind you. At that moment, you have to concentrate on the direction of the route, the convoy behind you, the traffic around you, switching the controls on the motorcycle, communicating with others by radio. I took a wrong turn at one of the intersections. Subsequently, I caught up with the convoy, such a thing is guaranteed to wake you up. I overtook the convoy and took my place, pretending that nothing had happened. I think the president didn't notice anything at the time.


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