A BRITISH ARMY BASE, England — A few weeks ago, Serhiy was a business analyst at an IT company. Zakhar was a civil engineer. Now they are soldiers training to liberate Ukraine from the Russian invasion, but they do so more than 1600 kilometers away in Britain.
They are among several hundred Ukrainian recruits undergoing intense infantry training at an army base in southeastern England. A group of 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers the British army has promised to train within 120 days spend several weeks learning skills including marksmanship, battlefield first aid and – crucial to the future of their country – urban warfare.
As Ukrainians clear their homes amid the chatter of gunfire and the shroud of smoke grenades on a simulated cityscape where British soldiers once trained for operations in Northern Ireland, they’re thinking about pulling Russian troops out of the streets of their own cities. drive out.
“The most important part is city training because it is the most dangerous fighting in cities,” said Serhiy, who like the other Ukrainians did not want his full name used due to security concerns. “The British instructors have a lot of experience, from Iraq, Afghanistan. We can adapt all this knowledge to the Ukrainian situation and use it to liberate our country from the Russian invasion.”
British trainers put Ukrainian troops through an abridged version of the British Army’s infantry training, covering weapons handling, first aid, patrol tactics and the law of conflict. The goal is to turn raw recruits into combative soldiers within weeks. The first batch arrived last month and has already been sent back to replenish depleted Ukrainian units.
“We provide basic infantry training, which takes Ukrainian recruits and teaches them to shoot well, move well, communicate well within any tactical environment and medicate well,” said Major Craig Hutton, an officer of the Scottish Guards overseeing the education.
Hutton says many of the Ukrainian troops have little military experience, but “they are so motivated. They have a fantastic will to learn, and they just want to practice, practice and more practice.”
More than 1,000 British personnel are involved in the training mission, which is taking place at four bases in the UK. Other countries also send trainers, including Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the Nordic countries.
Britain is sending Ukrainians home with new uniforms, body armor, helmets and other equipment, a share of £2.3 billion ($2.8 billion) of British military aid to the country, including anti-tank missiles and advanced missile launch systems.
Zakhar, the former engineer, said it was difficult to get out of Ukraine as fighting rages in the eastern Donbas region and in the south.
“I left my parents. I left my brothers and sisters, my relatives, to gain knowledge and experience that will help me … liberate our territory from occupiers and invaders,” he said through an interpreter.
Serhiy, the former IT professional, has been in uniform for less than a month and is equally determined.
“I know that Ukrainian soldiers are dying right now to protect our homes. So it’s hard to know I’m not with them,” he said. “But the Ukrainian army only needs professional soldiers, so I am ready to train as hard as possible to be ready for the coming battle.”
Brigadier Justin Stenhouse, who is in charge of training as commander of the 11th Security Assistance Brigade, said seeing the Ukrainians’ motivation is “humiliating”.
But he acknowledged that preparing for the chaos of urban combat is “almost impossible to do in training.” The purpose of the mission, he said, is to “train them so they can adapt to survive those early weeks of combat.”
“They will learn more in the early weeks of the battle than we can possibly give them here,” he said.
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