Thursday, March 31, 2016

Air National Guard Will Train Ukraine Airmen This Spring

WASHINGTON, DC -- Members of the California Air National Guard will train with Ukraine's air force from April to June, Guard officials tell Air Force Times.

Airmen assigned to the 144th Fighter Wing wear mission-oriented protective posture gear during the training portion of their expeditionary skills course at the Fresno Air National Guard Base March 5. ANG members from the 144th FW will head to Ukraine this spring.

The scheduled deployments will send a dozen or so airmen to mentor their counterparts in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Airmen with the 144th Fighter Wing out of Fresno will provide airspace defense and alert training, according to the Guard.

Pararescuemen from the 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View will provide instruction on basic battlefield medical procedures and conduct air-medical coaching.

Ukraine will be leading the training events; it is unlikely that aircraft from the fighter wing will participate, the official said.

“A lot of the Air Guard’s focus in Ukraine is on domestic missions and internal security," said Capt. Will Martin, spokesman for the California ANG.

"Our Cal Guard personnel work alongside Ukraine’s search-and-rescue teams and exchange best practices on defending their nation’s airspace.”

The California National Guard has a longstanding relationship with the Ukrainian military, and has been paired with the Eastern European country since its state partnership program united the two in 1993.

In December, Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, California Air National Guard commander, and some of his guardsmen traveled to Kiev to donate helmets, masks and other gear to Ukraine's forces.

"We have delivered to them 100 helmets, and these helmets are current helmets that we use in our Air National Guard," Baldwin told reporters.

"We have also delivered harnesses that are used to help the pilot sit and fit in the ejection seat of his aircraft. So the purpose of this equipment is to allow the pilots of the Ukrainian air force to operate their aircraft more safely and effectively."

The visit came one month after troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade began the second phase of exercise Fearless Guardian.

The training, which has been taken over by soldiers from the California National Guard, simulates ground training under “increasingly complex conditions” for Ukraine’s security forces, Lt. Col. Michael Kloepper, commander of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, told Army Times last fall.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced its plan to deploy an armored brigade combat team to Eastern Europe next February as part of the ongoing effort to rotate troops through the region.

The goal of the increase is to reassure allies like Estonia and Lithuania, feeling uneasy due to heightened Russian aggression in the region.

“This is bigger than Ukraine and the Cal Guard. It’s about contributing to the security of the Black Sea region and Europe as a whole," Martin said of the upcoming deployments.

"A stronger, democratic Ukraine makes for a more stable, peaceful Europe.”

Source: AirForceTimes