Ukrainian troops arrive at Fort Sill to train on Patriot missile system, Pentagon says
Stars and Stripes January 17, 2023
WASHINGTON — Roughly 100 Ukrainian troops have arrived in the United States to begin training on how to operate and maintain the Patriot missile system to help Ukraine fight off Russian aerial attacks, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the top Pentagon spokesman, said last week that it was decided the Ukrainian troops would train at the Army’s Fort Sill in Oklahoma, which is where American service members also train to use the Patriot system.
“Those troops have arrived at Fort Sill and have begun their training,” Ryder told reporters Tuesday at the Pentagon. “That training will last for several months.”
Fort Sill is about 80 miles southwest of Oklahoma City near the town of Lawton. Built in 1869, the base is home to the Army’s Air Defense Artillery School and Field Artillery School.
The Pentagon said last month that it was sending one Patriot battery to Ukraine to help repel Russian aerial attacks, some of which have targeted civilian infrastructure. Germany also promised to send one of their Patriot systems and recent reports have said the Netherlands might also send one of theirs.
Ryder said 100 troops are needed to operate the missile system, and there are presently no plans to bring a second group of Ukrainian troops to Fort Sill to train on the Patriot system. He said German military officials will be the ones to train the Ukrainians how to use its Patriot battery.
U.S. personnel have already been training Ukrainian troops in Germany to handle other military equipment, and the Pentagon previously promised to create the Security Assistance Group Ukraine in Germany to handle weapons shipments and personnel training for the Ukrainian military. The Pentagon began expanding the training there this week to include Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
Defense Department officials have said the Patriot system will give Ukraine “critical long-range capability to defend its airspace.” The surface-to-air missile system was added to the U.S. arsenal in the 1980s and is available in several variants. The Patriot is the primary missile system used by the Army, and various versions have been sold to other countries including Germany, Poland and Israel.
The Pentagon’s announcement Tuesday came on the same day that Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met for the first time with his Ukrainian counterpart in southeastern Poland near its border with Ukraine.
Army Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for Milley, said the general met with Ukrainian Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi at an undisclosed Polish base, and both felt that it was important to meet face to face.
Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Germany this week to participate in a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group — a collection of defense officials from about 50 nations that work to assess what Ukraine needs to defend itself from Russian forces.