On social media, the images are riveting. One minute, a piece of Russian military hardware is rolling or flying through Ukraine. The next, there is smoke and fire and nothing left but wreckage.
But behind the Ukrainian fingers pulling the triggers are Americans teaching Ukrainian soldiers how to use the increasingly sophisticated military hardware America is sending the embattled nation.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 amid predictions from the experts that Ukraine would fall in days — even hours. More than two months later, the end of the war is nowhere in sight as planeloads of weapons from the United States and Europe continue to arrive.
U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger announced the introduction of a joint resolution that would authorize US Forces to defend #Ukraine if Putin escalates the war by using #chemical, #biological, or #nuclear weapons against the country.
— Military News Alerts 2022 (@Mil_News_Rep) May 1, 2022
On Friday, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said a dimension is being added to America’s support for Ukraine.
“[T]he United States has commenced training with the Ukrainian Armed Forces on key systems at U.S. military installations in Germany. Now, 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.
Kirby noted that Florida National Guard troops who had been training Ukrainian soldiers in Ukraine but were removed prior to the start of the war are involved in the training.
“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 — in February,” he said.
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Kirby noted that support for Ukraine predates the Biden administration.
“A big part of Ukraine’s soldiers’ ability to defend the country as well as they have has been the training that they have gotten over the past eight years that have really sort — sort of helped transform them off of Soviet doctrine and — and Soviet area organization,” he said.
Thanks to U.S. training, Ukraine’s forces “have better command and control. They have better battlefield initiative. They have a competent noncommissioned officer corps that is empowered on the field of battle to make tactical decisions,” Kirby said.
“That didn’t happen by accident, and so we’re grateful to be able to at least start some of this training on these key systems that are going forward and — and to keep improving their battlefield competence,” he said.
Kirby said that there will be additional sites where training takes place, but would not reveal them.
He said about 100 Ukrainian soldiers are being trained to use American howitzers and about 20 are being trained in radar systems.
Stop sending weapons to Ukraine because we’re going to invade… https://t.co/XGOfvYtpZs
— Pete J (@DolphinTrainer_) April 27, 2022
Kirby said the training is compressed so that “it’s not so time-consuming that it takes them out of their fight for — for too long, as you might imagine. These — these soldiers are — they’re eager to learn these new skills, but they’re also eager to apply those new skills in the conflict.”
Kirby said American trainers will not set foot in Ukraine but said some form of online remote training might be instituted “where maybe checking in every now and then, familiarization, that kind of a virtual connection is certainly a possibility.”