YAVORIV, Ukraine--The U.S.-led Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine is an example of multinational partners working together to help build the training capacity of the Ukrainian land forces. This rotation marked the addition of Poland to the JMTG-U partnership and the small contingent has made a huge impact already.
The 27 Polish Soldiers arrived to the IPSC in early July and have been training their first iteration of Ukrainian Soldiers during a nine-week training rotation. The training starts with individual skills, like basic weapons training and combat lifesaving skills, and builds to collective skills training such as platoon live-fire and ultimately a battalion field training exercise.
"We are very happy that we can exchange our experiences with Ukrainian, American, Lithuanian and Canadian counterparts," said Maj. Miroslaw Szpunar, Polish Task Group Commander assigned to 21st Podhale Riflemen Brigade. "I think we are making a difference within the Ukrainian army by all of the forces being here."
According to Szpunar, a portion of the training has been focused on improving basic weapons training.
"Our role here is training the Ukrainian forces, especially in certain weapons, which are common for Polish and Ukrainian forces, but are not common within the American forces," said Szpunar. "Our instructors are independently responsible for Air Defense, heavy machine gun training and participate in mortar company, reconnaissance platoon, and RPG-7 operations."
1st Lt. Matt Zur, platoon commander assigned to 21st Podhale Riflemen Brigade said that some of his Soldiers were deployed with Ukrainian Soldiers as part of the Kosovo peacekeeping efforts and have already established a relationship with one another, which makes for smoother training.
"Some of the Ukrainian Soldiers are more experienced and have been to war, while others have not, but we have to train everyone on the same level," said Zur.
Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division are working side-by-side with the Polish Soldiers and learning just as much from them as the Ukrainians.
"The Polish instructors are teaching them their way to do things, and we are teaching them our way," said Sgt. Brandon Stabile, a squad leader with 6-8 CAV. "Its cool because the Ukrainian Soldiers get to take from both of us and mesh the knowledge to create their own procedures."Polish units are only authorized to deploy in three-month increments. As soon as they complete their tour, another Polish unit will assume the responsibility. But, according to Zur, even in that short time, they have learned a lot of training techniques they will share with their replacements."We will tell them to take it slow and step-by-step so that it runs smoothly for them," said Zur.
Along with training the Ukrainian army, the Polish force held a 'Polish night,' that was a celebration of Polish Land Forces Day. The celebration included Soldiers dressed in traditional uniforms, a zip-line with climbing equipment and skills demonstrations, displays that described the history of Poland, weapons display and an auction to support wounded Ukrainian Soldiers.
"These types of events are also very important because they help each country learn our traditions, culture and our different types of equipment," said Szpunar.
During a recent training exercise the bond built between the nations was evident as they performed a Polish dance, laughed and shook hands in celebration of a job well done."I've been working with the Polish since week one of training and I instantly connected with them," said Stabile. "I wouldn't trade it for working with any other group."