Florida Guard reunite with Ukraine troops they left behind before Russian invasion

Florida Guard reunite with Ukraine troops they left behind before Russian invasion

Soldiers from the Florida National Guard recently reunited in Germany with Ukrainian troops they had been training before being evacuated in February amid increasing concerns about an invasion by neighboring Russia.

The Guard soldiers arrived in late 2021 to run the Ukrainian troops through a training program at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center, located about 15 miles from the Polish border. The U.S. troops, operating as “Task Force Gator,”  were ordered out in February just before the first Russian armored vehicle rolled across the border into Ukraine.

With several months still left on their deployment, the Guard troops set up shop in Germany and are now continuing some of the training that was left unfinished. 

“It was an emotional meeting, given the strong bonds that were formed,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed that Germany was one of three locations outside of Ukraine where training was continuing on weapons such as the M-777 155 mm howitzers that make up part of a multi-billion assistance package from the U.S.

In addition to classes on weapons and equipment, the Guard soldiers gave the Ukrainians lessons in small unit leadership and military tactics. The classes helped wean them off Soviet-era doctrine and operate as a modern, western-oriented fighting force, Pentagon officials said.

“These (Ukrainian) soldiers are eager to learn these new skills but they’re eager to apply them in the conflict,” Mr. Kirby said.

Multiple Guard units rotated through Ukraine to train troops, a partnership that began after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. It was in addition to a long-time training relationship between Ukraine and the California National Guard dating back to the end of the Soviet Union.