Training lessons from Ukraine from one who knows

Ukraine soldiers being trained in the UK. (Crown Copyright)
Ukraine soldiers being trained in the UK. (Crown Copyright)

Colonel Hennadiy Kovalenko is serving as a staff officer at the Strategic Allied Command Transformation (SACT) HQ in Norfolk, Virginia.

He graduated from the Kharkiv Air Force Military Institute in 1996, and completed the Joint Command and General Staff Course at the Baltic Defence College in 2004 as well as graduated from the Royal College of Defence Studies in 2014, UK. From the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, he has been deployed in different capacities, most recently being responsible for coordinating international support and assistance and was on the keynote panel at IT2EC.

Colonel Kovalenko said that following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russians, the Ukrainian army was operating according to the Russian training manuals, so the invaders knew exactly what they would do. However, the Russian multi domain operations were still based on the Soviet era doctrines. It was essential that the Ukrainian forces changed their training and the United States, the United Kingdom, followed by Canada and other Western nations, stepped up to the task.

Col Kovalenko said that more than 86,000 Ukrainians had now received some form of training from NATO countries. These include some 10,000 already cycled through UK training camps since last summer, with the British government announcing earlier this month that another 20,000, including sailors and pilots would be trained this year. However as more NATO weaponry is sent to Ukraine, more of its soldiers will require Western training. Recently the first Ukrainian tank crews began learning to use German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks on Polish training ranges. He admitted that hard lessons have been learned and just doing training was not enough. The training had to focused on lessons learned from the conflict so far, not those from Vietnam or Afghanistan. Training the trainers is vital, he added.

He also asserted that civilians also needed training, especially in the contested Donetsk region. As an example he cited soldiers based at a frontline post prior to the Russian invasion were brought food by ‘friendly’ old ladies, but when it was fed to some guard dogs, they died. Many hard lessons still to be learned!

by David Oliver