Academic journal article Military Review

Transformative Staff Training in Ukraine

Academic journal article Military Review

Transformative Staff Training in Ukraine

Article excerpt

The events of March 2014 shocked the world: Russian forces invaded Crimea, and Russia annexed the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Subsequently, the Russians employed hybrid tactics that included using conventional forces and Russia-sponsored separatists to destabilize eastern Ukraine (which is on the Russian border). In response, the Ukrainian government authorized antiterrorism operations in Donbass. To support Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) formed the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC). The NUC includes the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform, which conducts security force assistance. In addition, the United States, Canada, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Estonia, and Ukraine created the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine (JMTG-U) to conduct complementary efforts for robust defense reform.

The JMTG-U, comprised of a brigade-level headquarters that included U.S., Canadian, and Lithuanian instructors, was tasked with training five Ukrainian battalions, developing a combat training center capability, supporting a doctrine-and-education advisory group, and providing mission command for a task force from the U.S. Army 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. This article is written from the perspective of officers from that task force, which was the partner-and-advise training team (PATT) battalion headquarters at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center (IPSC) in Yavoriv, Ukraine, from 15 February 2016 until 17 July 2016.

The 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment's task force trained two Ukrainian battalions; this article focuses on the first. The PATT headquarters developed training that transformed a Ukrainian airborne battalion staff from an antiquated and centralized Soviet command style to a contemporary mission-command focus. In contrast to the Soviet command style, using mission command would help optimize warfighting function integration and staff functional capability. The PATT's leaders understood that a traditional training approach would not accomplish the desired transformation. Therefore, the PATT used Army design methodology to develop problem-solving and instructional approaches that would incorporate action learning and andragogy.

Framing the Operational Environment

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in Ukraine possessing the fourth largest army in the world and a nuclear capability. Within twenty years, political and economic strife mixed with in-depth corruption and forfeiture of its nuclear arsenal (due to a diplomatic agreement) degraded the Ukrainian military to a shadow of its previous strength. Following unrest in western Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014, pro-Russian separatists seized key government buildings in the east in April 2014. Ukrainian forces, still operating under antiquated Soviet military principles, began antiterrorism operations in the Donbass region in June 2014. However, since increasingly large numbers of Russian regular forces were covertly aiding the separatists, the probability of successful antiterrorism operations was limited. Moreover, a Ukrainian field-grade officer explained to the PATT trainers that the Ukrainians learned during antiterrorism operations in eastern Ukraine that the old system did not work. He said they would need to learn a new way of fighting. (1) Although most Ukrainian forces withdrew from the Donbass region in early 2015, some battalions are still being deployed for antiterrorism operations as of 2016.

The ability to recognize and execute transformational change tests any large organization. The PATT headquarters quickly observed that although Ukrainian unit leaders were patriotic, hardworking, and dedicated to mission accomplishment, they adhered to a centralized-control organizational structure, thereby limiting their ability to integrate warfighting functions. During the first week of training, a shocked senior Ukrainian officer asked the PATT instructors if they always allowed company commanders to plan training and train wherever they wanted. …

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