LVIV OBLAST, Ukraine — About 160 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers have assumed responsibility of the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine designed to increase NATO interoperability.
The Camp Douglas-based headquarters of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team arrived in November as Task Force Juvigny to Ukraine’s Combat Training Center – Yavoriv.
TF Juvigny consists of Soldiers from across the Wisconsin Army National Guard. They were selected for their unique skills and expertise in a variety of disciplines and will serve as mentors and advisers to the Ukrainian military.
“No nation can confront today’s challenges alone,” said Col. John Oakley, Task Force Juvigny’s commander. “The more capable and interoperable our militaries are, the better positioned we will be as a community to achieve our common goals of security, stability and peace.”
Task Force Juvigny joins NATO allies Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Lithuania and Poland in Ukraine to aid and support Armed Forces Ukraine’s training and increase NATO interoperability with Ukraine.
“Our main goal is NATO interoperability,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brandon McKaig, a company mentor to mortars and artillery. “One of the challenges has been with equipment interoperability, but our Ukrainian partners overcome this challenge by being very competent and capable.”
“We’ve also been working a lot with our British counterpart and learning from him,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kirsten Schultz, an operations battalion adviser. “There’s more than one way to skin an apple, and I’m learning a lot about how to better plan, or plan different, for missions back home in Wisconsin.”
“My Ukrainian counterpart has been very knowledgeable and competent,” said Cpt. Phil Cluphf, a sustainment and logistics brigade adviser. “He brings a lot of Ukrainian Army experience in logistics and supply to the training center.”
The JMTG-U mission is part of an ongoing effort to contribute to Ukraine’s long-term military reform and to help improve Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities and training capacity. TF Juvigny, along with NATO allies, works with Ukraine to advise on the training center, cadre and institutional-level development.
“I have been blown away by how professional they [Armed Forces of Ukraine] have been,” said McKaig. “I’m enjoying my time here; I think the job I am doing here is important, and one of the biggest things is just building confidence and rapport with the Ukrainian units.”
“It’s going really well here,” said Schultz about working with Ukrainian military units. “Every day is a learning experience, and each day I’m learning how to be a better adviser.”
The name TF Juvigny is inspired by a pivotal World War I battle fought by the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division – the 32nd IBCT’s ancestor unit. The French Army mentored and trained the newly formed division and requested it by name to join the French Army for this battle. The 32nd seized all its objectives in partnership with the French, who later recognized the Red Arrow with numerous awards and accolades.
“I’m looking for how I can help, and in my experiences thus far the Ukrainians seem grateful for our presence here and welcoming of our suggestions,” said Cluphf.
“We look forward to learning new skills and perspectives,” said Oakley. “We are ready to share our knowledge and training expertise while growing our strategic partnership.”
Maj. Brian Faltinson contributed to this report.