YAVORIV, Ukraine--The International Peacekeeping and Security Center and the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, play an important role in helping to train Ukrainian Ground Forces. One such role was as host to a team from the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization and 19 Ukrainian students in the inaugural Ukraine Medical Curriculum Program.
The USASATMO team along with a team from the Army Medical Department's 232nd Medical Battalion from Fort Sam Houston, Texas have spent the last three months preparing their students to assume roles as instructors for newly enlisted combat medics. The program's intent is to take newly inducted medics into the Ukrainian Army and teach them best practices from U.S. Army Medicine. It will also set them up with the capabilities to facilitate the same education and training in their future school house.
"They have been outstanding," said Staff Sgt. Yasir Ortiz, an instructor in the course. "I am ecstatic that I am here training them because they are willing to learn. They want to learn and they give it their all."
USASATMO teams deploy in small numbers and conduct security assistance training all over the globe. This course was unique in that it was the first of its kind not only for the Ukrainians but also for the USASATMO team.
"We're known for training the world one soldier at a time," said. Sgt. First Class Johnny Gonzales, Non Commissioned Officer in Charge for the program. "Its uniqueness is the fact that we are taking someone from the street, teaching them our experiences, getting them at a level we feel comfortable they can perform the task, but also taking the knowledge and experience an NCO has and trying to set them up to be successful."
For Maria Nazarova, a class participant and experienced medic, this course provided an opportunity to learn some valuable skills from her American instructors.
"The most challenging is to always be a unit that communicates and use the chain of command. These are things we want to learn from our multinational colleagues and our American instructors," she said. "Medicine is the same all over the world. Medical terms and instruments, they are all the same, but communication and the way to work as a group, this has been a challenge for us."
But they weren't the only ones learning from someone, said Ortiz. "I learn from them just as much as they learn from me. I have a better understanding of the difference between Ukrainian Army medicine and U.S. Army medicine and the difference between how they operate out on the battlefield and how we operate. I'm here to help bridge that gap."
The course integrates classroom learning with hands-on training and culminates in a two-hour long final scenario. The class completed the scenario July 21. It consisted of engaging an enemy, recovering wounded, and transporting them to an aid station. While at the aid station the students had to prioritize care and stabilize the patient for transportation. All of this while switching out leadership and being yelled at by the instructors.
Many of the students have experience on the front lines of the current fighting in Eastern Ukraine. That experience helps them deal with the stress of the class, but it didn't make it go away completely.
"The training was highly stressful because it was physically demanding," said Nazarova. "The stress and the combat atmosphere and also the dynamics in the medical sense trying to treat casualties. Most guys who are here have combat experience and have been providing first aid in a combat environment so they are used to more stress."
Nazarova was attending the Medical Academy in Ukraine, but decided to take a pause due to the fighting going on in Eastern Ukraine. She has spent time as an EMT and as a medic in the anti-terrorist operations zones, but according to her this is her most valuable instruction so far.
"I also think we can give fish or we can give the instruments to fish so other people might learn it. I might be a good medic, some of us might be a good medic in the ATO zone, but what is more important is instructing and giving this knowledge to other rotations."
Gonzales feels confident that the students will be successful in that endeavor. "They did an outstanding job," he said. "I would gladly let them treat me on the battlefield, I feel confident in their skills and I am really impressed by what they achieved."