Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the curriculum: “This is not a free spin.” “This is one of those times when if you want to make a difference, this is it.”
The general’s visit was his first visit to the facility in the Bavarian foothills since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago. The base, which covers about 90 square miles, began hosting Ukrainian forces in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. It is now the site of a new expansion regime for Ukraine’s military, which has sent a battalion of more than 600 soldiers to spend up to six weeks learning how to combine tanks, artillery and other weapons to increase their effectiveness ahead of a counterattack in against Russia. deployed their forces on the territory of Ukraine.
While in Grafenwoehr, the Ukrainians are stationed at Camp Kherson, named in apparent homage to the city that Ukrainian forces liberated in November.
Three American journalists were allowed to follow Milley as he interacted with Ukrainian soldiers, on the condition that no photos or videos be taken, and that his private conversations with them not be disclosed. The United States and its allies continue to increase their military support for the government in Kyiv, but officials are very concerned about how that aid is perceived in Russia. The Kremlin has accused the US and NATO of using Ukraine to wage a proxy war with Moscow.
Later on Monday, the US military released one photo from the trip shows Milley overseeing training while standing alongside a group of U.S. military officials, including Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Hilbert, commanding general of the 7th Army Training Command at the facility.
Milley also visited another army base in Wiesbaden, west of Frankfurt, where he was holding a planning conference with Ukrainian military officials. Journalists were not allowed to follow the meeting and no clear information was obtained about it.
The general’s trips to Germany came as senior civilian officials visited Kiev in person with the Biden administration. Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state; Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy; and Jon Finer, the White House’s deputy national security adviser, met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials.
Ukrainian troops began arriving in Grafenwoehr last weekend and began training on Sunday. Milley observed them on a firing range and familiarized himself with US-supplied Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, the advanced weapons that President Biden approved for deployment to Ukraine earlier this month, as the Pentagon said they were intended to help Ukraine regain territory from Russian control.
In temperatures below 40 degrees, Milley called Ukrainian soldiers and asked about their background and combat experience, sometimes in English and sometimes through interpreters. Their mission is urgent, Milley noted, and has international support. The conversations were occasionally interrupted by gunfire, as nearby Ukrainian soldiers honed their skills with rifles and the M240B assault rifle.
Milley’s spokesman, Colonel David Butler, said the training is an expansion of what the United States has offered since 2014. It’s part of an international effort, Butler said, to help Ukrainian forces repel Russian invaders.
“The rush was obvious,” Butler said. “These soldiers go to war to protect their country.”
Milley, while flying from Washington to Europe on Sunday, stressed the timing of the effort, noting that it was not yet clear how soon the Ukrainian unit being flown to Germany would be ready to use the new weapons in combat.
“It’s going to take some time,” Milley said. “Five, six, seven, eight weeks, who knows. We’ll see what happens here. But in terms of its criticality, it’s needed now.”
Milley is expected to spend a week in Europe, including visiting a facility used as a way station to transport weapons to Ukraine and meeting with senior allied military officials. On Friday, he will join Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the latest meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group, a regular gathering of international defense officials open to military aid to Ukraine and examining whether it what kind of equipment they can provide.
The general said that while Ukraine is stressing its desire for tanks and other armored vehicles, its main need is more air defense, an ongoing challenge that Russia pointed to after a weekend missile attack on an apartment complex in the city of Dnipro. as a result, he was killed. dozens of people.
“They have significant attacks every few weeks, and they are attacks on civilian infrastructure,” the general said. “The Russians deliberately attack civilians and civilian infrastructure as a policy. This is a war crime in itself.”
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