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NZ soldiers train Ukrainians in battlefield skills to fight Russian troops

Major Thomas Kelly, left, and Major Josh Sullivan, centre, are met by Colonel Duncan Roy on their return to New Zealand.

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Major Thomas Kelly, left, and Major Josh Sullivan, centre, are met by Colonel Duncan Roy on their return to New Zealand.
Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

From anaesthetists to builders, Ukrainians are signing up to join their armed forces to defend their homeland from the Russian invasion.

About 700 have just finished training at the hands of New Zealand soldiers in the United Kingdom.

After four months away the 130 Kiwi troops touched down at Ōhakea airforce base in Manawatū on Sunday night, including Major Josh Sullivan, one of the training group’s commanders.

“They’re a mixture of civilian volunteers and conscripts. They turned up and they conducted the five-week basic course, and they left as qualified soldiers,” he said of the Ukrainians.

“It was a mixed bag. There was a varied and diverse group.

“We had people that ranged from anaesthetists to builders, and some people who have previous military experience.”

They all had a clear sense of purpose.

“They are very passionate and proud about their national identity. Essentially, their commitment is their service to Ukraine in order to dispel the Russian invasion and regain their homeland.”

The Ukrainians had no illusions about what it would be like going into battle, Sullivan said.

“I think it would be a stretch to find someone in Ukraine that hasn’t been affected by the conflict.

“The understand the realities of war. It’s not something that’s just happened overnight.

“There’s been ongoing conflict in Ukraine since 2014, so they are well-versed in matters of conflict and the effect that it has on them and their families and their loved ones.”

A little girl greets a NZ soldier waiting to clear Customs at Ōhakea air base on his return from the UK on 11 December 2022.

A NZ soldier waiting to clear Customs at Ōhakea air base greets a young family member on his return from the UK.
Photo: Supplied / NZ Defence Force

Fellow commander Major Thomas Kelly said the 35-day courses gave the Ukrainians a better chance of survival, and made them more lethal in battle.

“We were focusing on their battlefield skills – battle craft, operational law – and we were also taking them through range practices, both on purpose-built ranges and live-field fire.”

The hard work, on Salisbury Plain, had paid off, he said.

“The majority of them were civilians who have been recruited. However, they were high-calibre soldiers by the end of the 35-day programme.

“The really took well to the New Zealand level of instruction and then performed to a decent standard at the end of the 35-day training period.”

New Zealand soldiers get off a plane at Ōhakea air base on Sunday 11 December 2022.

The New Zealand soldiers get off the plane at Ōhakea air base on Sunday
Photo: Supp

Army land component commander Colonel Duncan Roy said the infantry training was New Zealand’s largest contribution to the Ukrainian war effort.

“We’re really proud of the performance of our people. They’ve gone over at short notice. They’ve been a practical demonstration of government policy.

“They’ve done a good job. They’ve made good connections in a short time,” Roy said.

“They’re highly skilled and they’ve been able to make a tangible difference to these soldiers, who are going back to Ukraine to defend their country.”

Another 65 soldiers will head to the UK to train more Ukrainians in January.

Story Credit: rnz.co.nz

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