In New Role, US Army Prepares Ukrainians for Different Type of War
by Nolan Peterson
Together, the sounds of these Soviet weapons form a booming background din with which some of the U.S. soldiers here are all too familiar.
After a Ukrainian soldier fired an RPG, one U.S. paratrooper turned to another and dryly remarked: “I’ve heard a lot of those things fired in the other direction.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” the other soldier responded. “For a second there it felt like ‘go time.’”
On April 20, about 300 U.S. Army paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy, began training the Ukrainian National Guard as part of a six-month exercise called Fearless Guardian. Like their position relative to the sounds of the Soviet weapons (which the Taliban and al-Qaida often use) on the Yavoriv range, Fearless Guardian marks a reversal for many of the U.S. soldiers here.
For one, unlike U.S. missions to train Afghan and Iraqi soldiers, the U.S. Army paratroopers will not be fighting alongside Ukrainians, leaving the U.S. soldiers in the unfamiliar position of training for a fight in which they don’t expect to have a direct role.
“It’s hard not to get emotionally involved,” Capt. Nick Salimbene, 31, said. “The reality is that in a few months we’re going to be back in Italy, and these guys are going to be in the ATO staring down separatist tanks.”
Fearless Guardian also reflects an evolution of the U.S. military’s role in Europe as it reverts to a Cold War-era mindset.