Ukraine-California ties present price of Nationwide Guard program | Article

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, left, adjutant common of the California Nationwide Guard; Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, and California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, go to the California Air Nationwide Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Air Nationwide Guard Base, California, Sept. 2, 2021. The California Nationwide Guard and Ukraine have been companions underneath the Nationwide Guard State Partnership Program since 1993 to develop and strengthen the strategic partnership between the US and Ukraine. (U.S. Air Nationwide Guard photograph by Senior Airman Duane Ramos)
(Photograph Credit score: Senior Airman Duane Ramos)


WASHINGTON – When Russia invaded Ukraine with greater than 150,000 troops Feb. 24, most individuals — particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin — anticipated a Russian cakewalk.

The women and men of the California Nationwide Guard knew higher.

The California Nationwide Guard has had an in depth working relationship with the Ukraine navy and the Ukraine Nationwide Guard since 1993.

California Guardsmen have taught the Ukrainian navy, skilled with them, shared successes and failures with them and simply turn out to be good mates over the previous 29 years.

All that is serving to now that the nation is underneath assault.

This happened as a part of the Nationwide Guard’s State Partnership Program.

First, a bit historical past. Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine was unbiased till 1920, when Russian communists conquered the nation. It grew to become a part of the Soviet Union from 1920 to 1991. The three most notable points of Soviet rule have been two Moscow-induced famines within the Twenties and Nineteen Thirties that killed an estimated 8 million Ukrainians and World Warfare II, which killed one other 8 million.

In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, and Ukraine declared its independence. The Chilly Warfare was over.

The individuals of Ukraine have been of two minds — some needed to remain aligned with Russia, whereas most Ukrainians needed to achieve out to the West.

Bounce to 1993 when Ukraine grew to become a constitution member of the U.S. Nationwide Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program together with Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Every nation was paired with a state, and Ukraine paired with California.

This system was based mostly on an American suggestion to NATO. It started as an effort to assist former Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations reform their militaries alongside Western traces, Nationwide Guard Bureau officers stated on background. This system had many targets, together with serving to the nations turn out to be extra interoperable with NATO forces, serving to the companions turn out to be extra clear in navy affairs and, maybe most significantly, serving to the nations know the way a navy works in a democracy.

Whereas this system began in Europe, it expanded to U.S. Southern Command after which to the remainder of the combatant instructions. In U.S. Africa Command, among the state partnerships predate the institution of the command itself.

At present, there are 93 nations partnered with Guard organizations from all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia.

U.S. officers believed that pairing with state Nationwide Guards made extra sense than pairing with active-duty forces, stated a Nationwide Guard official. First, the militaries in these international locations had missions extra carefully aligned with the Nationwide Guard than these of active-duty forces. These militaries may very well be known as upon to help in disasters and humanitarian crises, similar to Nationwide Guard personnel assist in hurricane reduction, forest fires, tornadoes, even snowstorms. The companion militaries typically labored carefully with legislation enforcement in a means that mirrored how Nationwide Guard troops on state missions typically do.

Officers additionally believed Nationwide Guard items have been extra secure — which means the personnel didn’t get reassigned each three years. Members of the state Guards might keep in place for a complete profession. This allowed the state and the companion navy personnel to bond in a private means, the official stated. “While you decide up the cellphone to name, you realize the individual on the opposite finish of the road,” he stated.

Belief amongst navy members developed with many companion service members coming to navy faculties in the US.

But it surely was extra. Belief was additionally strengthened when companion militaries deployed with U.S. formations to the Balkans. Belief was additional cemented when companions fought alongside U.S. service members in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For the reason that program began, there have been many cases the place officers grew up collectively — they met as lieutenants and captains and adopted one another up the ranks.

When Army Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, California adjutant common, joined the California Nationwide Guard in 1984, he and his spouse hosted a Ukrainian household in California for coaching underneath this system.

These contacts survived the ups and downs of politics in Europe and the US, he stated.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, pundits believed the Ukrainian navy was lower than the duty. “As a result of we work carefully with the Ukrainian military, we all the time thought that the West underestimated them, and the Nationwide Guard of Ukraine additionally,” Baldwin stated in a current interview. “We knew that that they had radically improved their means to do form of Western-style navy choice making. I’ve been impressed, although, with their means on the nationwide degree to work via among the challenges we thought they nonetheless had by way of logistics and command management.”

The Ukrainians have additionally demonstrated interagency cooperation. “I feel the very best story is with their Air Power,” the final stated. “Our fighter pilots have been telling everybody for years that the Ukrainian Air Power is fairly good. And within the meantime, quite a lot of different individuals within the West have been pooh-poohing them.

“Properly, the proof is within the pudding,” he stated. “Their Air Power is rather a lot higher than everybody thought aside from the California Air Nationwide Guard, who knew that these guys have been fairly good.”

The air over Ukraine remains to be contested, greater than three weeks after the invasion started.

Baldwin stated the trouble to coach the Ukrainian navy is known as a crew effort. California Guardsmen labored alongside NATO trainers and trainers from the active-duty forces — particularly after Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014 and illegally annexed Crimea.

Ukraine’s authorities turned decisively to the West, and the coaching took on new significance. Ukrainians have been very receptive. Earlier than 2014, the California Guard would ship a couple of dozen trainers at a time to Ukraine. After the Russian invasion, this dedication numbered within the a whole bunch and coaching accelerated.

That is greater than merely instructing infantry techniques, Baldwin stated, though Ukrainian troopers demonstrated the flexibility to shoot and transfer.

In coaching areas in Ukraine and California, the Army Guard and Air Guard in California labored to develop Ukrainian capabilities. In the event that they didn’t have the aptitude, Baldwin labored with Nationwide Guard items round the US to verify Ukrainian service members acquired the coaching they wanted.

It was greater than small unit techniques, he stated. The Guardsmen labored in logistics and sustainment — the lifeblood of any navy. They labored to determine and construct a Ukrainian NCO corps. They helped prepare workers officers in defending towards and launching cyber operations.

Guardsmen even labored within the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy to determine command and management procedures and assist construct a Joint Operations Heart modeled on what the U.S. navy would have. Guardsmen helped them “reorganize the best way that their staffs are organized on the common workers and on the Ministry of Protection,” he stated. “We even embedded (Ukrainian) workers officers as members of our workers.”

Baldwin went to Ukraine in November and mentioned with Ukrainian navy leaders the disturbing buildup of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders. “On the time, they form of knew that it was coming, however they didn’t wish to imagine it,” he stated. “It wasn’t till January that probably the most senior Ukrainian leaders began [to] acknowledge that this may very well be a chance.”

Ukrainian leaders then started speaking about particular wants they’d have if Russia invaded. “They got here inside a day or two of predicting when the invasion was going to come back,” he stated. “However due to that partnership, and our means to have frank discussions about what they wanted within the eleventh hour to prepare, I [hope] it very a lot helped them put together and to take action properly within the opening hours of the invasion.”

Baldwin stated that inside half an hour of the Russian invasion, he started getting calls from senior Ukrainian leaders. “The primary calls have been, ‘Hey, we’re underneath assault,’ after which the calls via that night time have been, ‘Right here’s the assistance that we desperately want,’” he stated.

The primary calls have been for extra Stingers, Javelins and different anti-tank weapons, he stated.

“Inside 24 hours, we had a fairly complete listing of all of their necessities for navy gear — each deadly and non-lethal,” the final stated.

The California Guard stood up their Joint Operations Heart they usually have been seeing the identical issues their Ukrainian companions have been posting in Kyiv. Baldwin handed the request to U.S. European Command and the Joint Employees within the Pentagon.

“Now there are quite a lot of formal liaison methods and mechanisms and methods to speak,” he stated. “However the senior leaders nonetheless attain out after they have one thing pressing. That’s only a product of {our relationships}. As a result of quite a lot of these guys which might be generals on the high of their organizations, I’ve identified for eight or 10 years. So, now we have very shut private relationships, they usually belief us as a result of they know us.”

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