By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 30, 2023) -- Since the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago, the U.S. has provided more than $32.5 billion of security assistance in the form of military hardware and ammunition. Allies and partners have also provided military hardware.
But the U.S., its partners and allies have provided more than just gear, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a briefing today. Also on offer has been substantial training to prepare Ukrainians to make good use of the equipment that's been supplied.
"Since Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in 2022, U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa and Security Assistance Group Ukraine have trained more than 7,000 members of the Ukrainian armed forces," Ryder said. "Just this week, 65 Ukrainian air defenders completed Patriot training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and have now arrived back in Europe."
Those newly trained Ukrainian soldiers will return to existing air defense units and are expected to share with fellow soldiers what they've learned about using the Patriot system. The United States, Germany and the Netherlands have all pledged Patriot systems to Ukraine, Ryder said.
"Once in Ukraine, the Patriot air defense system will add to Ukraine's layered air defenses to provide protection and shield from Russia's wanton, brutal attacks on innocent civilians and civilian infrastructure," he said.
Back in December, the Pentagon announced that the U.S. will also provide combined arms training to Ukrainian soldiers using U.S. ranges in Germany. That training has been underway, and some of it is now coming to a close.
"At the close of this month, more than 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers in two brigades -- one equipped with M2 Bradleys and one equipped with Strykers -- will have completed combined arms training and have returned to Ukraine," Ryder said.
More soldiers remain behind, he said, to get additional training at the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas. That includes two motorized infantry battalions with about 1,200 Ukrainian armed forces personnel.
"Operator and maintenance training on donated platforms is also ongoing, with more than 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers having completed platform training in 40 different programs of instruction on more than 20 systems since April of 2022," Ryder said.
Just as many nations are providing military hardware to the Ukrainians, training is also a multinational endeavor. Right now, Ryder said, more than 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers are receiving training in 26 different countries.
"The U.S. will continue to provide training and work closely with our allies and partners to ensure the Ukrainian people have the security assistance they need to defend ... their country and repel Russian aggression," he said. "We remain committed to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes."
Black Hawk Accident
Yesterday evening, nine soldiers with the Army's 101st Combat Aviation Brigade were killed as a result of a training accident involving two Black Hawk helicopters. The soldiers and helicopters were involved in a planned training exercise near Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Now, an aviation safety team from Fort Rucker, Alabama -- home of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence -- has been deployed to investigate, Ryder said.
"On behalf of [Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III] and the Department of Defense, I would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the nine U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division who sadly lost their lives last night when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed outside of Fort Campbell, Kentucky," Ryder said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, units and all those affected by this tragedy."