Graduation day for Ukrainian recruits

By Captain Annie Richardson

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine.

On the anniversary of the full-scale invasion, about 200 Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) recruits marched out from the UK-led and based training program under the instruction of the first Australian contingent deployed on Operation Kudu.

The program, which has seen nine partner nations train more than 10,000 Ukrainians, has the recruits undergo intensive combat training to rapidly learn the foundations of warfighting, using realistic and relevant scenarios designed to mimic the conditions in Ukraine.

This rotation of the volunteer force has been taught weapons handling and firing, wooded and urban fighting, trench warfare and medical survival skills by Australian instructors – who arrived in January this year.

Lined up in a hollow square on the parade ground of the camp they have been calling home, the trainees awaited the formal acknowledgement of the conclusion of their training, their graduation from civilian to soldier.

The contingent padre opened the graduation ceremony, recognising the sombre date with a prayer and a minute’s silence to reflect on the human suffering and tragedy of the conflict.

Following the silence, the Commander of the Australian Contingent on Operation Kudu, Major Gregory Sargeant, acknowledged the graduates’ dedication and the spirit they displayed throughout the course.

“Some of this training will be close to what many of you will soon be facing, or have already faced at home,” Major Sargeant said.

“You have had to learn very quickly, covering multiple topics to make you efficient soldiers, and you have all impressed the training team with your dedication and motivation.

“Our involvement is only a small part of your journey, but we take great pride in that small part we play.

“Look after yourselves, your friends and your families. Good luck and good soldiering.”

A Ukrainian National Support Element (NSE) Commander expressed his pride to the new graduates.

“It is a coincidence that you are graduating this day. Throughout this war we haven’t been acknowledging holidays or national days. Until the war is over, all our days are the same,” the NSE Commander said.

“You have done a lot of training in a short period. You have undergone different courses and drills, all of which will motivate you to continue the fighting.

“I am proud of you. You have worked very hard, your progress has been obvious and you have done very well.”

One graduating recruit, speaking in a mix of English and Ukrainian, humbly offered his appreciation for the course and his section commanders.

“Training here is very intense and, with regard to the Australian instructors, they work with love,” he said.

“They understand whom and for what they are teaching.”

The Ukrainian NSE Commander also expressed his hope and gratitude to the Australian instructors.

“Many of us have already seen combat during the Russo-Ukraine war but, no less, we have been so impressed by the level of knowledge from the Australian instructors who came here,” he said.

“We thank you for your motivation to come to help our soldiers and pass on your knowledge.”

“It’s important that we continue to work together. Australia and Ukraine share common values like freedom – which we are fighting for right now.”

The now privates, or ‘soldats’, will return to Ukraine to join their units and commence their new roles in their home country.

Australian soldiers from the 1st Brigade are deployed to the United Kingdom on ADF Operation Kudu, joining partner nations for the UK-led and based training program for Ukrainian recruits.

The contingent of up to 70 personnel is providing critical training to Ukrainian Armed Forces recruits to support their national defence following Russia’s illegal invasion.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles visited Operation Kudu earlier this month and said he was proud of the quality of training being provided to the recruits.

“Our men and women of the Australian Defence Force, alongside our partner forces, should be proud of their efforts to provide a training program that will help the AFU soldiers who they have trained,” Mr Marles said.

“This training is critical and will help the Ukrainian soldiers to continue protecting their country and bring an end this conflict.”

No Australians will enter Ukraine as part of this program.


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