US Planning To Train More Ukrainian Forces, May Include Armor and Airborne Troops

Gen. Raymond Odierno and Ukrainian Gen. Oleh Garchu, July 8, 2015U.S. and Ukrainian officials are making plans to expand the training of Ukrainian military forces at a training base in the western part of the country, officials said Wednesday.

The U.S. is currently training Ukrainian national guardsmen at the training site, about 28 miles from Lviv, Ukraine. Members of the National Guard, part of the Ministry of Interior, aren’t front-line troops but are in charge of defending supply lines and operating check points.

Ukrainian military officials said Wednesday they want to bring their conventional army troops and special-operations forces to the training center to run through the course taught by U.S. soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Italy.

The Ukrainians have selected mechanized and airborne units that would be part of an expanded training program.

U.S. officials have also begun planning for a potential expansion of the training, lining up funding and beginning planning for the expansion. But officials said a final decision on increasing the training is up to the White House. White House officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

On a visit to the training base, Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said it was clear the Ukrainian government wanted the U.S. to expand its training, but declined to say whether he would support stepped-up training.

Still, Gen. Odierno said he backed Ukrainian plans to expand the capability of the training base to handle larger units, saying the center is critical for Kiev to prepare and sustain their forces fighting Russia-backed separatists.

Soldiers of the 173rd said the National Guard has fought high intensity engagements against well-armed forces, including sustained barrages of artillery fire by Russian forces, a particular kind of attack that U.S. forces haven’t experienced for decades….

“We haven’t faced something like this ourselves for a while,” Gen. Odierno said.

Image: Gen. Raymond Odierno and Ukrainian Gen. Oleh Garchu, July 8, 2015 (photo: 173rd Airborne Brigade)