By Capt. Scott KuhnNovember 21, 2016
YAVORIV, Ukraine--Two U.S.-led teams from the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine conducted week-long assessments of two Ukrainian combat brigades in Odessa and Kharkiv on Nov. 11.
The teams were there to assess the combat readiness of the 28th and 53rd Brigades. The multinational teams were comprised of Canadian, U.K. and U.S. Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division as well as 7th Army Training Command out of Grafenwoehr, Germany.
According to Brig. Gen. Tony Aguto, commander of 7th Army Training Command, the multinational make-up of the teams was essential to their success.
"There's not much that we do here that doesn't involve all three of us," Aguto said. "It is a synchronized effort to build better Ukrainian training and forces. The assessment team would not have done any good if one nation did it, if we are all eventually going to help train these units, so it made sense."
Once on ground the teams got to work by first establishing a baseline that they could use to assess the current training status and identify potential gaps in the unit's desired training progression. This was done through focused questioning to establish how the brigade, battalions and companies had trained prior to their recent deployment to the Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone in Eastern Ukraine. The teams then assessed that against current training, manning and equipping plans.
Lt. Col. Jay Wisham, commander of 6-8 CAV, led the Odessa team. He said that the teams were able to conduct a thorough review of the Brigades' current state of readiness and what their training needs are as a unit going through an immediate reset and retrain to get ready for their next ATO rotation.
"This has a lot of potential strategic impact. It's less about hands on training and more about how we make recommendations and assist our Ukrainian partners," Wisham said. "We are looking much deeper and with a much longer lens. How do we help them shape their force generation process?"
The idea for the assessment teams came out of a visit by Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, chief of general staff, Commander in Chief of Armed Forces for Ukraine, to 7th ATC's Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training centers in Germany. According to Aguto, Muzhenko was impressed with the way the U.S. Army assesses itself and learns from after action reviews.
"He asked us at that time if, when their units come in from the ATO, it would be possible to send an assessment team and take a look at their units for a couple of purposes," Aguto said. "One, to just see the readiness of their units as they come off the ATO and two, and more importantly, was to help them improve their training plan as those units get ready to go back into the ATO."
Currently, most U.S. training has occurred within the confines of the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv, Ukraine. The Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine has spent the past year helping to build an enduring and sustainable training capacity through direct training and the development of dedicated cadre. The assessment teams offered another opportunity to assist in the development of that training capacity.
"I think it will allow us to develop or touch units we would not have seen going into operations," Aguto said. "So, I think what they will do with this assessment is possibly incorporate our recommendations to make these units better the same way we do out here in Yavoriv."
According to Wisham, this assessment process may be the way ahead for U.S. support to Ukrainian military reform.
"This certainly has the potential to be a very attractive option for the Ukrainian units and the tri-nations team as we go forward," he said. "Over time we are going to adjust the composition of what our forces do because the Ukrainian forces are becoming very adept at running the CTC (combat training center) on their own and that allows us to recapitalize some of our capability and actually help them in other ways. This could be one of those ways."