By Maj. Michael J Weisman (The 173rd Airborne Brigade)April 11, 2015
VICENZA, Italy -- Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Support Battalion arrived in Yavoriv, Ukraine April 10 via a ground convoy from here to deliver the brigade's training equipment for Operation Fearless Guardian.
Fearless Guardian is the name for the training of Ukraine's newly-formed National Guard under the Congress-approved Global Contingency Security Fund. Under the program, the United States will begin training three battalions of Ukrainian troops over a six-month period beginning later this month.
"Ukraine is a strong partner that has participated in exercises and operations with us around the world," said Capt. Ashish Patel, a planning officer with the brigade. "They've asked the U.S. for assistance in providing this capability, and this training will help them defend their borders and their sovereignty."
The cargo of the convoy is meant to assist the brigade with equipment it needs to conduct the training, and is not equipment to be issued to Ukrainian troops, according to Capt. PJ Hartman, the battalion's transportation planner.
"The equipment on the convoy consists primarily of logistics vehicles to support and enable the training effort in Ukraine," said Hartman. "This equipment will provide maintenance support as well as troop and general cargo transport to and from training areas."
Approximately 1850 kilometers separate Vicenza from Yavoriv, and took the convoy of approximately 50 paratroopers and 25 vehicles through Austria as well as NATO allies Germany and Poland. Planning and conducting such a movement provided training of its own.
"This movement challenged leaders at all levels in the complexities of tactical convoy operations through several countries in Europe," said Capt. Kris Toman, commander of the battalion's Company A and the convoy. "It enables junior leaders to think critically and solve logistical problems."
Starting with the brigade's host nation and NATO ally Italy, every piece of the convoy required close coordination with American embassies in each country as well as NATO allies and partners, from submitting diplomatic clearances to coordinating police escorts.
"Planning a convoy like this teaches our leaders to think strategically," said Maj. Antonio Pineda. "Conducting convoy movements from country to country, making contact with allied units to plan the route and escorts, it's not something you can experience back in the U.S."
In addition to escorts, allied units in Germany and Poland also hosted the convoy during overnight stops.
"We couldn't put this together without our allies," said Hartman. "The first night we were hosted by German Air Force at Wilhlem-Frankle Kasserne near Neuberg an der Donau, where the German forces facilitated our rest and refit, and we got to meet and exchange with an allied unit."
Similar to Dragoon Ride in March, where Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment conducted a ground movement from the Baltic States to Germany, the ground convoy to Fearless Guardian highlights the ability of NATO units to move internally within the Alliance's borders.
"This convoy is a demonstration of sustainment interoperability among our allies and partners," said Pineda. "When we call the 6th Polish Airborne Brigade to discuss movement through Poland, that's a unit we've worked with countless times through Atlantic Resolve in the last year. That makes everything easier."