FORT SILL, Okla. (Oct. 12, 2017) -- Russia has created a disturbing footprint in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine that has the United States and NATO concerned about future conflict, according to a U.S. Army project paper. To stall their efforts, the Fires Center of Excellence has played a major role in helping the Ukrainian army build up its fires defense and more.
"Ukraine wants to become a NATO nation, but Russia doesn't want them to be a NATO nation. Russia wants to have a buffer zone," said Col. Heyward Hutson, U.S. Army Field Artillery School assistant commandant.
"We're trying to assist the Ukrainians in either holding what they've got in Eastern Ukraine, or developing capabilities and the capacity to regain their internationally recognized territory," said Hutson. "The problem is a lot of Eastern Ukraine is pro-Russia so the civilian population there is divided."
A U.S. presidential decree in 2015 provided the Ukrainians with two Q-36 radars, a phased-out U.S. capability.
That November, a team from U.S. Army Europe, FCoE and U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization (USSATMO) conducted four weeks of operator training there.
"The major mechanism of injury for the Ukrainian soldiers in the [anti-terrorism zone] was indirect fires," said Pat Macri, USSATMO Ukrainian security assistance training manager. "The initial radar systems they got were the lightweight counter mortar. The Ukrainians took a system that our Soldiers work well at best and took it to the next step. They actually synchronized it with all of their systems, but they wanted to take it to the next step and cover more areas of the battlefield."
Ukraine received four additional Q-36 radars six months later and training by U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command with support from the FCoE and USSATMO.
"This time instead of just training on the Q-36, we decided to have kind of a holistic approach," said Macri. "One of the things we noticed was they were operating correctly, but they were failing to understand the capabilities, how to maneuver them on the battlefield and how to properly maintain them."
To solve this problem, the U.S. team showed their brigade, battalion and platoon commanders how to tactically employ the radar system to support fire and maneuver efforts.
Then the Ukrainians moved into another identified gap of training: radar maintenance.
"That went extremely well, what we actually did was create a corps of radar maintainers for the Ukrainians. Then we rolled into the Army Basic Instructor Course to basically teach them how to teach. The whole idea is to get them to be self-sustaining because it had been identified that this is going to be a continuous training effort and obviously FCoE and the Army doesn't have the bandwidth to keep supporting it," said Macri.
After seven trips to Ukraine, the FCoE and USSATMO believe the next step is to build observer coach trainers into their artillery structure.
"What happened from the FCoE's perspective is we were asked to support a mission and go in and train the Ukrainians on radars, which we did and I think we did very successfully, but as we did that we uncovered more critical problems," said Hutson.
Talks have gone beyond the Q-36 and now Ukrainian leadership is looking to build its own fires center of excellence. Hutson supports the idea, but said there are other concerns he feels should be addressed like the lack of a noncommissioned officer role in their ranks.
"I told them that's what makes the United States Army so dangerous, so lethal, because we rely very heavily on our NCOs to make decisions. If they're going to meet the NATO standard then they're going to have to become a little more progressive in their structure."
Macri said Ukraine is spinning up all its warfighter functions in an effort to defend itself and further its goal to join NATO.
"They are working to be NATO interoperable by 2020. Whether they meet this goal is entirely up to their progress on implementing the required changes within their military," said Macri.