By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2015 – The Defense Department is moving forward with plans to train members of the Ukraine National Guard beginning in late April, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said yesterday.
The department will use its authorities under the Global Security Contingency Fund as part of a joint DoD-State Department initiative to strengthen Ukraine's internal defense capabilities, Warren told reporters during a daily briefing.
“We plan on sending about 290 U.S. service members, specifically paratroopers from the [Army’s] mighty 173rd ‘Sky Soldiers’ Airborne Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy,” he said, to train six Ukraine National Guard companies with a focus on internal security and territorial defense.
The training will be conducted in western Ukraine at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv, near the border with Poland, Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.
Training for Guard, Headquarters Staff
There will also be training for headquarters personnel, she added, focusing on the continued professionalization of Ukrainian staff members.
The training is part of a long-term strategy to build Ukraine's capacity and capabilities, she added, and to help increase the professionalism of its forces.
“It is similar to previous long-standing exercises we have conducted in Ukraine since 1995,” she said. “The United States conducts joint exercises and training with our partners and allies throughout Europe and all around the world.”
The United States believes there is no military resolution to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, but that Ukraine has a right to defend itself, Lainez said.
Sustaining Ukraine’s Defense
“This assistance is part of our ongoing efforts to help sustain Ukraine's defense and internal security operations. In particular, the training will help the Ukraine government develop its National Guard to conduct internal defense operations,” Lainez noted, adding that the program is designed to strengthen Ukraine's defense capability and capacity and assist in its defense reform.
The training mission involves equipping Ukraine security forces, and this nonlethal equipment includes basic field uniforms and equipment, body armor, night-vision devices and tactical radios, she said. The train-and-equip program for the Ukraine National Guard will cost $19 million, she added.
Austere Challenge 2015
Also in the region, Warren said, U.S. European Command yesterday began executing a large-scale defense exercise called Austere Challenge 2015 that will involve 4,000 U.S. service members.
The exercise consists of command-post simulations and aims to train and prepare Eucom and component command headquarters staffs to plan for and respond to crises, Warren said. The exercise is taking place at several locations in Germany and the United Kingdom, he added.
“Training events such as Austere Challenge are vital to ensuring the men and women of Eucom are well-positioned as America's forward presence,” Warren said, “standing alongside our proven and indispensable European allies and partners to ensure regional stability.”