Guardsmen take a break from serious training in Ukraine with lighter moments
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 2, 2018
Tennessee National Guardsmen deployed to western Ukraine finished a weeklong team-building competition that included a paintball fight at the Combat Training Center in Yavoriv, Ukraine, on Saturday.
The friendly event comes at a time when tensions are high on the other side of Ukraine, where Russian ships fired on and seized Ukrainian ships and crews on Nov. 25 in the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian soldiers have been battling Russian-backed separatists since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
During the competition, seven Ukrainian units currently going through U.S.-led modernization training, as well as soldiers from the Ukrainian Land Forces Academy, competed alongside one multinational unit, made up of U.S., U.K., Canadian, Lithuanian and Polish soldiers, to overcome several soldiering challenges.
Events included an obstacle course, individual weapons training, a relay race, offensive and defensive tactics and, to many soldiers’ delight, a paintball battle.
“It was great to see the best of the best participate from the current rotational Ukrainian unit, as well at the Land Forces Academy,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Smith, the 278th commander. “It is a humbling experience to see all these multinational soldiers work together to accomplish a goal, as well as compete with one another.”
The guardsmen, from the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, are currently deployed to the Joint Multinational Training Group Ukraine to advise and assist in modernizing Ukraine’s military. A mission the U.S., along with allies and partners, has been doing since 2015.
During their rotation, the guardsmen oversaw Ukrainian units using modern NATO-like tactics and making a transition from an officer-centric, Soviet-style approach to the development of an NCO corps to make quick decisions in the field. The winners of the competition were not announced. Army authorities say the competition was more about camaraderie and working together than winning.