Oklahoma guardsmen discuss year-long mission training Ukrainian troops

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — As tensions continue to escalate between Russia and the Ukraine, some Oklahoma guardsmen discussed their year-long mission where they trained Ukrainian troops.

The United States warns of a possible imminent attack from the Russians. Both countries have amassed troops on either side.

In 2017, hundreds of the Guard were sent to Ukraine to help with training.

Over the course of a year-long mission, 500 Oklahoma National Guardsmen trained their Ukrainian counterparts on necessary skills such as security and lifesaving first aid.

“The first thing that they said to us was I think that the training that we were provided by the American soldiers is probably what saved my life,” said Captain Kayla Christopher, Oklahoma National Guard.

Christopher said that was part of their goal when she was deployed to Ukraine from Dec. 2016 to Nov. 2017. She, along with her fellow guardsmen, were there to assist Ukrainian military trainers.

“There were three main things we wanted to do: We wanted to help them develop a training program that would bring them into NATO-standard training, we wanted to develop a cadre to staff that training center and then we also wanted to help them modernize their facilities,” Christopher said.

She said that while there were some clear differences, those she met reminded her of home.

“All of the people were very welcoming to us and they were kind, hardworking people, very similar to Oklahomans,” Christopher said.

Training missions with Ukraine like this have been occurring since 2015 and they continue today, even as the possibility of a Russian attack remains.

“We still have some small number of trainers inside Ukraine. They’ve been there for many months. They’re still on the ground helping advise Ukrainian armed forces,” said John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

While the Pentagon said that no troops have been deployed for combat, more could be added to high alert or sent to nearby countries in Europe.