YAVORIV, Ukraine (April 16, 2015) -- About 300 paratroopers, from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, arrived at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, April 14 - 15, to begin a six-month training rotation with Ukrainian national guard forces, here.
"The 173rd Airborne Brigade is here to train with Ukrainian forces," said Maj. Jose Mendez, a brigade operations officer. "We will be conducting classes on war-fighting functions, as well as training to sustain and increase the professionalism and proficiency of military staffs."
The training, known as Fearless Guardian, is for the newly-formed national guard under the congressionally-approved Global Contingency Security Fund. Under the program, the United States will begin training three battalions of Ukrainian troops during the six-month period.
Two companies, from the brigade and a battalion staff, will train two Ukrainian national guard companies and their respective staff in each of the three two-month training rotations. Soldiers and paratroopers will focus on building capacity with the newly established national guard units.
"We can talk about partnership all day," said 1st Sgt. Christopher J. Valverde, Troop B, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. "But it is at the lowest level, when the Soldiers interact together, where real relationships are built and the more beneficial the training becomes."
While the Americans have come fully ready to share knowledge, they also are anxious also to learn.
"Coming to Ukraine is a great opportunity for our troop," said Capt. Matthew Carpenter, commander, Troop B. "We will not only teach our Ukrainian peers what we know, but we will also try to learn from them as much as we can."
Today, the brigade, as the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, is conducting continuous operations in six different countries.
"This is the new norm for the 173rd," Mendez said. "The 173rd is in a special position, as the only forwardly-positioned airborne brigade in Europe, we have the ability to be anywhere in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility in 18 hours or less."
The brigade has trained with Ukrainian forces in international exercises throughout Europe, as well as within Ukraine, most recently last September in the Rapid Trident series of exercises, an annual U.S. Army Europe-led exercise designed to promote regional stability and security. The two forces are scheduled to participate in Exercise Rapid Trident 2015 later this year.