YAVORIV, Ukraine - Soldiers with the California Army National Guard are deployed to the International Peacekeeping Security Centre in Yavoriv, Ukraine, to support their Ukrainian partners while participating in Rapid Trident 17.
Their participation in this multinational training exercise reinforces the initiative of the State Partnership Program implemented between the California Army National Guard and the Ukraine armed forces over 20 years ago.
The State Partnership Program developed from a 1991 U.S. European Command decision to set up the Joint Contact Team Program in the Baltic Region with Reserve soldiers and Airmen. This unique program includes 73 security partnerships involving 79 nations around the world. The SPP links components of the Department of Defense and states' National Guard with the armed forces of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
Through the SPP, National Guard units conduct military-to-military engagements in support of defense security objectives, but also leverage combined capabilities to facilitate broader integrity.
"These partnerships are incredibly important," said Brig. Gen. Kelly Fisher of the California National Guard. "The California National Guard has had a professional relationship with Ukraine since 1993, and that's when we did our first combined training exercise with them. At this point, I think there have been about 400 engagements that we've had with the Ukrainian Armed Forces over 24 years."
"Every opportunity that I have to come back and observe or participate in some of their training, I can see how the relationship is continuing to progress. The Ukrainian soldiers take such pride and they're so grateful to continue to have that partnership with us, and it is equally important the California National Guard," she added.
The objectives for the California National Guard unit, while supporting Rapid Trident 17, are to provide contingency and expeditionary base operations support, with the responsibilities to manage facilities, provide administrative and logistical support, and safeguard the security of personnel involved in the exercise. They're also supporting Ukraine's defensive reform and efforts to develop fully deployable units that are interoperable, with the ability to integrate with NATO forces.
Through the joint planning and combined execution phases, the California National Guard, and their Ukrainian partners will continue to build on their collective operations and combined standard operating procedures while working alongside Partnership for Peace and NATO member nations during multinational exercises like Rapid Trident 17.
"The United States Army and the Ukrainian Army execute operations differently," said Capt. Alejandro Strawn a communications officer with the 115th Regional Support Group. "So for us to be able to effectively conduct a multinational mission while 'fighting' the same conflict, 'the left hand should know what the right hand is doing.'"
"If one Army is better at a specific operation, then as a combined force, we will be able to sustain those advantages for our partner nations and vice versa," he said.
The California-Ukraine SPP is one of the most important and progressive partnerships within the European Command. Combined training exercises like Rapid Trident highlight the continuous effort to build on the professional relationship that was established 1993.