The move involves the Florida National Guard, but ‘they were preceded by others of their colleagues going back over the last eight years.’
Photo: The Florida National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team first arrived in Ukraine in December. They’re now training Ukrainian troops outside the country. (Sgt. Specer Rhodes/Army)
30 April 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News
U.S. service members in Germany have begun training Ukrainian soldiers on key systems being used to defend Ukraine against the Russian invasion, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said Friday.
“These efforts build on the initial artillery training that Ukraine’s forces already have received elsewhere and also includes training on radar systems and armored vehicles that have been recently announced as part of security assistance packages,” Kirby said.
U.S. Army Europe and Africa is organizing the training in coordination with Germany.
Florida National Guardsmen — who were part of the Joint Multinational Training Group in Western Ukraine and were ordered out of the country as the threat of the Russian invasion intensified — have reunited with Ukrainians in Germany and are again working to give the Ukrainians the knowledge they need to defend their country.
“The recent reunion of these Florida National Guard members with their Ukrainian colleagues, we are told, was an emotional meeting, given the strong bonds that were formed as they were living and working together before temporarily parting ways in February,” Kirby said.
The United States is not the only country training Ukrainian service members. Yesterday, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said Canadian service members were training Ukrainians on the M-777 howitzer in Europe.
These systems are necessary to counter Russia’s new push into the Donbas region of Ukraine.
This training package is just the latest in an effort that goes back to the break-up of the Soviet Union, but that intensified after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and illegally annexed Crimea. “We’re here today talking about the Florida National Guard,” he said. “But as you all know, they were preceded by others of their colleagues going back over the last eight years.”
That training effort has been key to Ukraine’s stout defense of its capital city of Kyiv and the fight they are putting up in Donbas. The training helped transform Ukraine from a Soviet-style military to a more agile and deadly force.
“They have better command and control,” Kirby said. “They have better battlefield initiative. They have a competent noncommissioned officer corps that is empowered on the field of battle to make tactical decisions. That didn’t happen by accident.”
The bulk of the training on the new systems Ukraine is getting will be performed by the Florida Guardsmen. They can, of course, call on Army units in Germany to assist if they need it, the press secretary said.
U.S. officials want to make the training useful and constructive, but not onerous — meaning the Ukrainians are fighting a war in their country and do not have the time for long training classes. As such, the Ukraine military chose artillery personnel to learn to operate the M-777 howitzer. They have the background needed to operate artillery and just need to learn the peculiarities of the American system.
The same is true of radar operators. While they will receive American systems, these soldiers have already learned about radar and just need to learn what buttons to push, or what pulses mean on American sets.
“As you might imagine, these soldiers are eager to learn these new skills, but they’re also eager to apply those new skills in the conflict,” Kirby said.
The press secretary was asked about Russian nuclear saber-rattling. He said the United States continually watches the Russia’s nuclear preparations, and officials believe U.S. deterrence is positioned correctly. He said the United States takes any threats seriously and is prepared.
“I’m not going to go into the psychology of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” Kirby said. “It’s hard to look at what he’s doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine and think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that. It’s difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well-thinking, serious, mature leader would do that. So, I can’t talk to his psychology. But I think we can all speak to his depravity.”
29 April 2022 | CAITLIN DOORNBOS | Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON – Florida National Guard soldiers who trained troops in Ukraine before Russia’s invasion are now training Ukrainian forces again outside the war-torn country, chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.
“The United States has commenced training with the Ukrainian armed forces on key systems at U.S. military installations in Germany,” Kirby said. “This new training effort … is in direct support of recent U.S. security assistance packages.”
About 160 of the Army National Guard troops deployed in December to Ukraine for a training mission before they were pulled out of the country Feb. 12 as Russia prepared to launch its invasion less than two weeks later.
The U.S. troops were sent to an undisclosed location in Europe, but recently had a sentimental reunion with the Ukrainians they had once trained, Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon.
“The recent reunion now of these Florida National Guard members with their Ukrainian colleagues we are told was an emotional meeting, given the strong bonds that were formed as they were living and working together before temporarily parting ways in February,” he said.
For now, there are no plans to return to training forces inside Ukraine as President Joe Biden has said he will not send U.S. troops into the country, but the Pentagon is considering remote training for Ukrainian troops there.
“The trainers would be obviously outside Ukraine, but able to communicate with Ukrainian troops inside Ukraine virtually,” Kirby said. “So that’s an option available to us [but it] hasn’t started.”
The Florida National Guard troops are still deployed on their original December orders, he said. There has been no decision made on whether their deployment will be extended.
‘Useful and constructive’
Training is necessary because Ukrainian forces are unfamiliar with some of the weapons that the U.S. sent Ukraine, such as the 90 155mm howitzers included in recent back-to-back $800 million military aid packages, Kirby said.
“These efforts build on the initial artillery training that Ukraine’s forces already have received elsewhere, and also includes training on the radar systems and armored vehicles that have been recently announced as part of security assistance packages,” he said.
Canadian forces are also training Ukrainian troops on the M777 howitzer, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand confirmed during a news conference Thursday at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Two groups of 50 Ukrainian troops are undergoing howitzer training – one in Germany and one in an undisclosed European country, Kirby said.
“We want to make it’s not only useful and constructive for Ukrainians, but … not so time-consuming that it takes them out of their fight for too long,” he said. “These soldiers are eager to learn these new skills, but they’re also eager to apply those new skills in the conflict.”
The U.S. earlier this year trained Ukrainian forces on Switchblade drones, commonly called “kamikaze drones” for their ability to fly into a target and launch explosives, the Pentagon has said.
Russia’s assault slows
The training comes as Russia’s renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine creeps along, a senior U.S. defense official said Friday.
“Because of this slow and uneven progress – again without perfect knowledge of every aspect of the Russian plan – we do believe and assess that [Russian forces] are behind schedule in what they were trying to accomplish in the Donbas [region],” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Russian forces have made “some incremental, uneven and slow advances” southeast and southwest of Izyum in eastern Ukraine, the official said. The U.S. believes Russia wants to close in on Ukrainians from the east, north and south but have failed to encircle them, so far.
“They have not been able to link the north [line of advance] with the south,” the official said. “In fact, they’re nowhere close to linking the north and south as the Ukrainians continue to push back.”
Still, Russia continues its onslaught in eastern Ukraine, targeting most of their airstrikes on Mariupol in the south and on a Ukrainian operations area near the Donbas, the official said.
Most of those munitions have been “dumb bombs,” meaning not precision-guided, which are known to cause more damage to civilian infrastructure, the official said.
Most of Russia’s airstrikes are launched from outside Ukraine and the aircraft return to Russia afterward because the airspace above Ukraine remains contested, the official said Thursday.
“It’s not like the Russians own every airfield in Ukraine and are using it – that’s not the case,” the official said. The Ukrainians still are operating their air forces and their missile defense systems inside the country.”
As of Friday, Russia has launched 1,950 missiles since the start of the war, the official said.