LVIV, Ukraine – Deployed in support of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine (JMTG-U), one of Task Force Illini’s missions is helping the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) achieve NATO interoperability, which includes the ability to speak a common language, English.The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine released a statement Nov. 18, “The military education system is in a phase of intensive transformation. Learning English by personnel is an integral part of introducing a new military culture in the Armed Forces of Ukraine based on Euro-Atlantic values and principles.”Since assuming the JMTG-U mission, Task Force Illini has been involved with the English language program at the Ukrainian National Army Academy (NAA) in Lviv, Ukraine.“This engagement with the English program started out as a volunteer opportunity for us to observe, mentor, and further improve multinational partnering with the academy. However, it quickly evolved into a mission our commander was invested in executing,” said Cpt. Candace White, Task Force Illini Headquarters executive office, and resident of Peoria, Illinois.Once a week, AFU cadets and officers conduct English classes with American Soldiers at the NAA.“This mission is essential for a myriad of reasons. One such reason comes down to getting the perspective of native speakers for pronunciation, having someone to explain in-depth meanings, and helping them to understand different dialects and slang,” said 2nd Lt. Christopher Zolner, Task Force Illini Platoon Leader and resident of Monee, Illinois.The students are eager to improve their English skills, and this opportunity is valuable to them. At the end of their lessons, they often ask when the Americans will join their classes again.“The English language is a very good chance to me. After one or two years of speaking, writing, listening, and reading English I may be working in Europe and other countries. Maybe even writing books about medicine,” said Ukrainian Cpt. Andrii Mattiash, and NAA cadet.Teaching English is only a small part of the outreach supported by the JMTG-U mission.“I believe an American presence at the National Army Academy adds to our overall goal of multinational partnership in that it helps to build connections and rapport throughout the key leaders of both organizations. It gives Americans and Ukrainians an opportunity to build relationships and put faces to names in a positive light,” said Zolner.The presence of U.S. Soldiers at the academy has opened doors to stronger partnership with Ukrainian Soldiers.“Attending the NAA to speak with Soldiers and cadets was the most enjoyable and rewarding experience thus far in my deployment. I learned just as much from them as they learned from me through our open discussions and answering each other's questions,” said Cpt. Christopher Gorman, Task Force Illini director of plans, operations, and training, who resides in LaSalle, Illinois.“This mission is more than sitting in a classroom speaking English. It is about connecting and enriching the relationship between our two militaries and cultures. Through our conversations and spoken words we learn how we are different but also how similar we are,” said White.Task Force Illini is the command element of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, which is responsible for training, advising, and mentoring the Ukrainian cadre at Combat Training Center-Yavoriv, Ukraine in order to improve Armed Forces Ukraine’s training capacity and defense capabilities.