A CAF combat engineer on his experience training Ukrainian soldiers on Operation UNIFIER

A Canadian soldier instructs a Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier on prodding techniques. Photo : Joint Task Force - Ukraine

A Canadian soldier instructs a Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier on prodding techniques. Photo : Joint Task Force - Ukraine

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By A Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) combat engineer deployed on Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine

Canada and Ukraine have maintained strong ties for decades. In the military realm, Canada most recently brought its battle-tested knowledge and training experience to Ukraine under Operation UNIFIER. I am a CAF combat engineer and have been deployed on this operation for almost seven months.

As the days ticked-down to my departure date, the list of small things to get done seemed endless: packing my kit, sorting out my life with my family and friends, and having emergency plans in place should something happen while I was away. It was a never-ending task, or so it seemed, but finally everything was in place and I was ready to depart.

After a lengthy plane ride and an hour-long drive to Starychi, home of the International Peacekeeping Support Center (IPSC), we had arrived at our new home for the next seven months.

My job here as a combat engineer was, and continues to be, to work with the Ukrainian Army’s Rotational Training Unit (RTU) during their 55-day training cycle at IPSC. In so doing, my fellow engineers and I found ourselves teaching a wide variety of engineering skills to a large and diverse audience. Our primary focus was to train the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) engineers attached to the Canadian-led company. Starting from the basics and working our way up, we worked with the UAF to develop their skills and adapt their techniques to a high standard. Topics such as minefield laying and breaching, obstacle construction, basic demolitions, tactical explosive breaching, building and personnel search are just a handful of the skills we were tasked to deliver in a short period of time.

Our secondary focus was to teach explosive threat and hazard awareness recognition (ETHAR) to the rest of the company. This training teaches soldiers how to react when they find themselves in a minefield, how to get out of a minefield safely and efficiently, and how to deal with casualties. Everyone from clerks, to medics, and infantry took part in this training, and based on the feedback, it was very well received by all.

The end state of this training mission remains to enable the UAF to be able to instruct, deliver and evaluate all of its units that come to IPSC for training; this change has begun to be implemented.

When the mission began, Canadians were teaching and delivering lessons to the UAF members directly, while working with the in-house UAF instructors of the IPSC’s Combat Training Center. Since arriving, our transition from Canadians teaching material to enabling the Combat Training Center instructors to teach has seen progress. We have shifted to the background, being here to support the CTC when needed, but letting them steer the ship, so to speak. The past two years have taught them valuable skills including a new methodology for teaching soldiers.

Our rotation wraps up in the coming weeks. It is hard to believe this many months have passed so quickly. The stories and experiences that I have had here will stay with me for the rest of my life. I have made a lot of good friends here and many of those friendships will come back to Canada with me.

Chimo!

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