Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited Eastern Europe in mid-March to get an up-close look at CAF missions, most significantly, in Ukraine.
Having trained more than 600 Ukrainian soldiers since the start of Operation UNIFIER less than a year ago, to say Sajjan left satisfied with the accomplishments of CAF soldiers is an understatement.
“He left with a very positive impression of the mission and what we’re accomplishing,” said current Commander of Joint Task Force Ukraine, Lt-Col. Tim Arsenault.
In the two months since Arsenault assumed command of Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine his troops, from C Company 3 Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (3 R22eR), have worked hard to continue providing Ukrainian forces with elite training.
Since assuming command from 1 Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment on Jan. 18, Arsenault and his troops have furthered CAF goals on six lines of effort. An additional 300 soldiers have been trained during the two months. Four counter improvised explosive devices courses, two military police courses and several combat first aid training courses have been provided to Ukrainian forces.
For the first time, the 3 R22eR is also working on creating flight safety course, mainly entailing transport related safety training, to be conducted in the fall of 2016 and January 2017.
The sixth line of effort consists of logistics modernization and is currently in the process of being activated.
“We’ve been very busy. The folks from Petawawa [1 RCR] did a good job lining us up for our mission, and I feel confident we’re not only able to transition seamlessly but to pick up where they left off and continue to improve and move forward, and it’s really appreciated by the Ukrainians and our allies,” noted Arsenault.
Though the main mission of the CAF soldiers is to train Ukrainian soldiers, especially after Russian aggressions towards Ukraine, Arsenault says Canadian soldiers are going beyond that mission and connecting with the people around them.
Started by Roto Zero, from Petawawa, CAF troops pulled together to donate money to local orphanages. Building on that tradition, Arsenault and his troops are raising funds to donate to the Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre.
The presence of Canadian troops has also significantly contributed to millions of dollars being invested into the local economy.
“It’s not just about military training. We’re trying to show that Canada is supporting Ukraine with its security challenges, and we’re working hard to stabilize things in this part of the country,” said Arsenault.
Arsenault believes that many CAF soldiers have also extended a hand in personal friendships with Ukrainians.
“I rapidly realized that we as Canadians are very culturally similar to the Ukrainians. We feel very comfortable. We’re building very tight friendships and we’re making sure we’re making a difference for them and we’re actually responding to what their needs are. This is a country that is at war and we respect that tremendously,” noted the commander.
The 3 R22eR will remain in Ukraine until August. For the remainder of their time, their main objective is to train Ukrainian forces instructors as much as possible and then move into a mentorship and advisory role.
They’re also looking “over the horizon” to set up a plan to hand off to the group that will replace them later this year to ensure the continued success of this operation.