United States government training and equipment provided via the Global Security Contingency Fund has significantly improved the capabilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the face of ongoing Russian aggression.
The GSCF, a joint program of the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, is providing $42.4 million in training and equipment to assist the Government of Ukraine to further develop the tactical, operational, and institutional training capacities of its Ministry of Defense and National Guard. These efforts are paying off, and helping to generate professional security forces capable of defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine, deterring further Russian aggression, as well as supporting Ukraine’s goal of achieving full NATO interoperability.
GSCF’s Program Director Rachel Schiller recently returned from a trip to Ukraine to assess the impact of this support, and seek ways to further optimize ongoing training efforts with its National Guard. The National Guard of Ukraine currently provides over fifteen percent of the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s forces participating in the Joint Forces Operation, which is defending Ukraine’s sovereignty against Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. The country’s National Guard has made great strides in developing its capacity to counter Russian aggression, due in large part to the support provided by the GSCF.
Facilitating the National Guard of Ukraine’s Tactical Training and Rapid Response Battalion Deployment
The GSCF has supported the development of four companies and a battalion-level tactical headquarters that has enabled the National Guard of Ukraine to deploy approximately 5,000 trained, professional guardsmen to the Joint Forces Operation. GSCF funding has also supported the creation of an elite Rapid Response Battalion that has been used successfully in operations in the Donbass region. The project with the National Guard of Ukraine is led by U.S. European Command (EUCOM) but includes inputs and assessments from the California National Guard which is partnered with Ukraine under the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. California National Guard soldiers, currently serving at EUCOM and the Office of Defense Cooperation in Kyiv have been instrumental in drafting the implementation plan for training the National Guard of Ukraine. As the National Guard of Ukraine’s capability continues to grow, GSCF is adapting the program from provision of direct training on tactical skills to focus on developing and institutionalizing the their own training capability. This kind of flexibility is a key attribute of GSCF’s success.
Supporting Ukrainian Ministry of Defense Tactical, Operational, and Institutional Training Capacity
The GSCF has also supported Ukrainian Special Operations Forces in developing tactical and institutional capabilities that are compatible with Western models. As a result of this GSCF support, Ukraine’s Special Operation Forces established their own qualifications qourse (SOF Q-Course), which has markedly improved the quality of tactical and operational training. Commanders returning from defensive operations report that graduates of the Q-Course who are serving in the Joint Forces Operation execute their missions with a high-level of proficiency.
As a result of GSCF training, the Ministry of Defense has also demonstrated a substantial improvement in its capacity to provide medical care during defensive operations. GSCF training has contributed to the standardization of military medical care is having a direct, positive impact on the survivability of soldiers engaged in combat in the Joint Forces Operation.
Improving NATO Interoperability
GSCF training on leadership and tactical defensive combat skills has also contributed to the professionalization of a modern, NATO interoperable, non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps within the Ukrainian Ground Forces. These forces have subsequently established their own NCO Academy to institutionalize the training initially provided by U.S. implementers.
The Rapid Trident 2018 exercise, conducted in September 2018 at Ukraine’s Yavoriv Combat Training Center with GSCF support, is another success story in interoperability. Rapid Trident 2018 was a joint, multinational exercise that brought the Ukrainian Armed Forces together with those of the United States and thirteen other NATO and international partners. Ukrainian Special Operation Forces, conventional forces, the National Guard, and the Border Guards all participated, and further increased their tactical and operational capabilities by sharing shoulder-to-shoulder experiences and developing professional relationships with NATO and other international partners.
The exercise also reinforced the Ukrainian Ground Forces’ innate training capacity and its defense reform efforts. Current and former commanders of the Yavoriv Combat Training Center stated that the Rapid Trident Exercise series has not only increased interoperability between Ukrainian security forces and their NATO partners, but has also helped Ukrainian Ground Forces units perform more effectively as they conduct defensive operations in the Joint Forces Operation. Lastly, Rapid Trident has created an ongoing forum for Ukraine to deepen its collaboration with NATO allies and its capacity to confront hybrid threats and counter Russian aggression.
About the Author: Anna Huynh was formerly a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist with the Global Security Contingency Fund in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Global Programs and Initiatives.