By Sgt. Alexander Rector, New York National GuardJune 4, 2018
Yavoriv, Ukraine -- Maj. Gen. Raymond Shields, the commander of the New York Army National Guard, visited 220 New York Army National Guard Soldiers stationed at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center here May 25.
During the day-long visit, Shields, and New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major David Piwowarski, and Command Chief Warrant Officer Jaqueline O' Keefe, met and spoke to Soldiers, visited the training center simulation center, and recognized Soldiers for outstanding work.
"The chance to visit our Soldiers helping to train the Ukrainian army just reinforced my pride in the Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard," Shields said. "We asked them to leave their families and civilian jobs on short notice and they rose to the occasion and have performed extraordinarily well."
The Soldiers are assigned to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Syracuse, and have been working to help train Ukrainian troops since November as part of NATO's Joint Military Training Group-Ukraine.
At the combat training center, Shields met with Soldiers overseeing section training being conducted by Ukrainian Army personnel and spoke with Ukrainian officers who operate the combat training center.
During the tour Shields had the opportunity to tour the training center's new simulation center. At the center, Soldiers utilize computers to hone and perfect their skills before moving out to a field environment. The simulation center can facilitate training from an individual Soldier level all the way up to a brigade-level staff.
Shields presented challenge coins to 12 Soldiers to recognize them for their hard work and dedication to the mission.
"I never expected to receive a coin from Maj. Gen. Shields," said Staff Sgt. Justin Zuchowski, the team's transportation non-commissioned officer. "Since arriving in Ukraine I've been building bridges with the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukrainian Border and Customs agents and 7th [Army Training Command]. It's an honor to be recognized for all of my hard work," Zuchowski said.
Before leaving the training center, Shields, Piwowarski, and O'Keefe dined with Soldiers at the base's dining facility and had the opportunity to hear some of the Soldiers personal experiences and impressions of Ukraine since arriving here last November.
They also meet with key leaders to discuss the challenges and successes of the deployment.
During their time in Ukraine, the 27th brigade Soldiers the bulk of which come from the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry, are mentoring and advising different Ukrainian Army battalions that rotates through the Yavoriv training center.
The Ukrainians are working to modernize their fighting force and achieve NATO compatibility.
While accomplishing this task, the New York Soldiers are assigned to the Joint Multinational Training Group -- Ukraine. Overseen by U.S. Army Europe's 7th Army Training Command, the joint training group is a multinational collection of Soldiers working to help Ukraine increase its capacity to defend its sovereignty.
Alongside Soldiers from Canada, Denmark, Lithuanian, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom, the 27th brigade Soldiers have spent the last seven months giving insight and guidance to the Ukrainian Soldiers stationed at the Yavoriv training center.
The New York National Guard Soldiers will turn over their part of the mission to Soldiers from the Tennessee Army National Guard's 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is scheduled to occur later this summer.