Video: U.S. Soldiers Train Ukraine Troops

Ukraine soldiers
A fighter jet flies overhead on April 16, 2014, as Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored personnel carrier in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine. Marko Djurica/Reuters

At a former Soviet military base outside of the western Ukrainian town of Lviv, about 300 U.S. Army paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which is based in Vicenza, Italy, are training the Ukrainian National Guard.

The six-month U.S. training exercise, called Fearless Guardian, officially began on April 20. The training is focused on both teaching individual skills and modeling the institution of the Ukrainian National Guard on the U.S. military.

Yet, beyond the official syllabus, looming over the training is the knowledge that the Ukrainian soldiers here will likely see combat soon after their training is over.

Many of the U.S. paratroopers are themselves combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. And many of the Ukrainian soldiers are fresh off the battlefields of the Donbass, some after more than a year on the front lines.

Consequently, one of the greatest challenges for U.S. soldiers is applying the lessons they've learned from counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to prepare Ukrainian troops for the type of combat they'll soon be facing in eastern Ukraine, which includes heavy artillery, tank battles and, in some places, even trench warfare.

For the U.S. soldiers, the training mission in Ukraine marks a return to a Cold War mindset. Soldiers are focused on training for a conventional state-on-state conflict. And they are also adjusting to the type of media attention that comes with training exercises such as Fearless Guardian, in which the diplomatic message of having U.S. soldiers on Ukrainian soil is equally as important as the lessons those soldiers are teaching.

Nolan Peterson, a former special operations pilot and a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is The Daily Signal's foreign correspondent based in Ukraine. This article first appeared on the Daily Signal.