The U.S. on Monday began new, expanded combat training of some 500 Ukrainian forces on Sunday at the Grafenwoehr Army Base in Germany.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the goal is to have the Ukrainian battalion battlefield-ready in the next five to eight weeks. Milley plans to visit the Grafenwoehr training area on Monday to get a first-hand look at the program.
The Pentagon announced plans to begin the training program in mid-December, but had declined to give a start date.
“[This] is a logical next step in our ongoing training efforts, which began in 2014, to build the Ukrainian armed forces capacity,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said when announcing the program. “While there’s an understandable focus on the equipment being provided to Ukraine, training is and has been essential to ensuring Ukraine has the skilled forces necessary to better defend themselves.”
Soldiers from U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command’s 7th Army Training Command will provide the combined arms and joint maneuver training.
On Sunday, Milley told two reporters traveling with him that the complex training, involving an array of new weapons, artillery, tanks and other vehicles heading to Ukraine, would be key to helping the troops take back territory captured by Russia, 11 months into the war.
Milley said the “ideal” goal is for all incoming weapons and equipment to be delivered to Ukraine so that newly-trained forces will be capable of using it “sometime when the spring rains show up.”
The new training comes as Ukrainian troops have been facing fierce fighting in the eastern Donetsk province, where Russia has claimed it has control of the small salt-mining town of Soledar.
If Russia’s claims of victory in Soledar hold true, Moscow further claims it would allow its troops to push on to the nearby city of Bakhmut, and cut off the Ukrainian forces there, as well.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, insisted last week that “our troops—the Armed Forces of Ukraine, all defense and security forces—are defending the state.”
Previous to this week’s new training, the U.S. has already trained more than 3,100 Ukrainian troops on how to use and maintain other weapons and equipment, including howitzers, armored vehicles and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Other nations are also conducting training on the weapons they provide.
Further, Milley said the U.S. had been doing this type of training with the Ukrainians prior to the Russian invasion last February. But once the war began, U.S. National Guard and special operations forces that were doing training inside Ukraine all left the country.
This new effort will be a continuation of the training conducted prior to the invasion.