YAVORIV, Ukraine – During their deployment in Ukraine, Soldiers in the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment from the Tennessee Army National Guard have been actively involved in assisting with military training, base renovations, multinational relations, and community outreach.
The primary training focus for Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine is led by the Combat Training Center (CTC) branch, which is comprised of multinational units working together to focus on building enhancements for the Yavoriv Combat Training Center.
"The main effort here is to continue assisting Ukrainian Armed Forces in forming an enduring capacity to train and evaluate its own units," stated 2nd Lt. Richard Mayfield, a company mentor in the CTC branch.
While the Ukrainian CTC staff leads the hands-on training for the rotational brigade of Ukrainian soldiers, the U.S. - alongside Canadian, Lithuanian and Polish service members - mentors the trainers. This training ranges from platoon- and company-level tactics, to heavy weapons and artillery fire. Ukrainian units rotate through the YCTC as a means to increase their overall readiness.
During the fall, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment Soldiers assisted in two additional multinational training exercises, which included participation from over 13 allied and partner nations. Rapid Trident 2018 was a two-week-long exercise, and Blonde Avalanche 2018 was a week-long exercise focusing on joint operations in the case of an environmental emergency.
Not only are troops assisting in the training at the YCTC, several participated in renovation projects for the central base to improve the quality of life for themselves and future units. The Soldiers built a new gym for all Soldiers, regardless of nationality, which more than doubles the size of the previous gym. Troops also remodeled the Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent, as well as the on-post Army Exchange store.
These enhancements significantly increased the morale for U.S. Soldiers deployed here, and their multinational counterparts.
"The previous gym was a lot smaller with less equipment and less room for activities," stated Sgt. Kiely Middleton. "Now, we have a gym that is twice the size of the previous gym and it provides more opportunities for Soldiers to maximize their fitness goals."
In between training, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment Soldiers participate in several multinational sports leagues to include basketball, floor hockey, football, ping-pong, soccer, and volleyball. Currently, the Lithuanians are champions in the volleyball competition and Canadians are in the lead for ping-pong. These leagues provide the opportunity to build friendships with multinational Soldiers and increase physical fitness.
Tennessee Army National Guard Soldiers have also had the opportunity to increase their cultural awareness by visiting local cities such as Chernobyl, Kyiv and Lviv. While on base, Ukrainian language and culture classes are held each week and provide Soldiers the opportunity to increase their knowledge.
"The opportunity to be able to share cultures between several different representative countries has been incredible," stated 2nd Lt. Tim Stanczak. "We are able to come together through sports, despite language barriers, and it truly has been remarkable."
Those 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment Soldiers who have a passion for outreach have participated in various projects to include working with the Boys and Girls Scouts, and the local orphanage for children with special needs. Some of the activities include harvesting potatoes, building a new playground, teaching land navigation and celebrating both Ukrainian and U.S. holidays. Recently, the Soldiers brought a bit of Christmas to the orphanage and celebrated with food, music, dancing and candy.
Although training is the primary focus, Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine is more than a training center - it's also about building relationships and helping others, no matter where in the world they are. Soldiers prove this on a day-to-day basis; whether through Christmas caroling in the town square, bringing cheer to the orphanage or building projects to improve the quality of the base.