WASHINGTON ― Canadian and U.S. Army officials are determined NATO efforts to train Ukrainian forces will last long term, despite uncertainty over whether Congress will continue to fund additional military assistance for Kyiv.
Canadian Brig. Gen. Mason Stalker, the deputy training commander for Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, stressed Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference that dozens of NATO members are contributing to these efforts, even though the future of the United States’ role in the conflict remains unclear.
“We’re not going to comment on bilateral or individual nations’ policy decisions and how they will potentially affect the future,” Mason told Defense News. “But what I can say is that SAG-U has got over 25 nations in it right now. And we are continuing to coordinate the delivery of equipment that’s been donated.”
Speaking alongside Mason, U.S. Army officials described training Ukrainian troops to use armored fighting vehicles, tanks and Patriot missiles as one of the highlights of their careers during a panel titled “As Long as it Takes ― International Efforts to Train Ukraine’s Military.”
There are currently 25 countries training Ukrainian forces amid an influx of NATO equipment Ukraine has received since Russia invaded the country. The equipment is delivered as part of the Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, an initiative U.S. European Command set up in November 2022.
Mason noted that 7,254 Ukrainians are receiving training through Security Assistance Group-Ukraine and that NATO members have trained about 90,000 troops overall at 88 training sites.
The coalition has trained 17 brigades and is currently focused on reconstituting several of them as winter approaches.
Congress passed $113 billion in economic and military support to Ukraine, but failed to pass a fifth aid package earlier this month despite the White House’s request. The Pentagon says it can use roughly $5.5 billion remaining from prior fiscal years to continue transferring weapons to Ukraine, but that’s not expected to last for much more than a couple of months.
Col. Bryan Harris, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, recently returned home after deploying to NATO’s eastern front to train Ukrainians on combat maneuvers.
During that time, his unit trained 9,000 Ukrainians to use Bradley fighting vehicles, M1A1 Abrams tanks and M109 Paladin howitzers.
“Up to that point in December 2022, it was all platform training — how to operate this platform, how to operate this weapons system,” Harris said at the panel. “But in January, we started combined arms maneuver training.”
“There were Ukrainian crew members on Paladins supporting Bradley maneuver manned by Ukrainian crew members, and it was a sight to see,” Harris said. “It was a highlight of my 25-year career.”
Lt. Col. Seth Barrett, commander of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, also described his unit’s efforts to train Ukrainians to use the Patriot missile defense system at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Barrett noted this took “a herculean effort” by the linguist community, noting that U.S. soldiers with Ukrainian backgrounds reenlisted to help with translation.
Ukrainian trainees were versed in the Soviet-era S-300 missile system, giving them a sense of the fundamentals, but still needed Patriot-specific training.
“Soviet systems tend to be a lot more user-involved,” Barrett said. “An S-300 has 84 different cables that you have to plug in. We have five.”
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.