YAVORIV, Ukraine -- Rapid Trident 16, an exercise involving the U.S., Ukraine and 11 additional NATO and Partnership for Peace nations, officially kicked off at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center here Monday.

Rapid Trident 16's primary focus is on defensive operations and validating training of units attending the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine program at the IPSC. The Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine program consists of a 55-day long rotation that trains Ukraine soldiers in individual and collective tasks.

Ukraine Col. Eduard Moskalyov, co-director of the exercise and first deputy commander of Operational Command North greeted participants and thanked them for their commitment. "I congratulate you on the beginning of the training and hope you feel enthusiasm, vitality of spirit and body, rewarding professional development and mutual support with reliable new comrades in arms," he said.

During the course of the two-week exercise the partner nations will conduct a brigade-level command post exercise integrated with both situational and field training exercises. All of this is aimed at enhancing joint combined interoperability among Ukraine, U.S., allied and partner nations.

"Your training efforts over the next two weeks contribute to the regional security of Europe, expand mutual cooperation, and assist Ukraine in furthering their Defense Reform and Modernization efforts," said U.S. Army Col. Nick Ducich, Co-director of the exercise and commander of JMTG-U speaking to the assembled participants.

The exercise includes nearly 2,000 personnel from Ukraine, the United States, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Great Britain, Moldova, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden and Turkey.

"Today's presence here of such a powerful cohort of our partners and comrades in arms demonstrates the broad international support for the struggle of the Ukrainian nation for sovereignty and territorial integrity as a democratic European state," said Moskalyov.