Soldiers return home after training Ukrainian troops

By James Perry

The first New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel to deliver infantry training to Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) recruits have returned home after training more than 600 Ukrainians in soldiering skills that will help them defend their country against invading Russian forces.

The 120 NZ Army soldiers arrived in the United Kingdom in September as part of an international programme training Ukrainian recruits at British Army camps. 

With the assistance of interpreters, the personnel instructed Ukrainian recruits in a five-week training course delivering a basic introduction to soldiering, tactical exercises, range practices and live field firing. The training covered weapon handling, operational law, field craft, offensive and defensive operations, and marksmanship.

Recruits were taught to operate different weapon systems, fight in a trench, clear a building, as well as how to survive on the battlefield and deliver combat first aid.

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said the Defence Force was working with partner militaries to deliver the training, with those on the ground working tirelessly to prepare AFU soldiers for the battlefield.

'Motivated into capable'

“Our personnel have been as motivated to provide this training as have been the AFU recruits to learn. With so much at stake, our professional soldiers have turned groups of motivated individuals into capable ones, who will soon be applying everything they have learned to Ukraine’s defence.’’

Land Component Commander Colonel Duncan Roy, who met the NZ Army personnel when they arrived home last night, said the NZ Army personnel had built a rapport with the recruits, who were now equipped to join the frontlines in the war against Russia that began in February.

“The first groups trained by our personnel came from civilian backgrounds. Others, in the most recent groups trained, have had combat experience. They are motivated to defend their country. Our NZ Army instructors have put every effort into providing them with the core skills needed for this.’’

Another team of NZ Army infantry personnel will be deployed to the UK for six months in January to train more AFU recruits as part of the international training programme.

The NZDF has provided other assistance to support Ukraine’s self-defence against Russia, including intelligence analysts, logistics support, an aircraft and personnel to transport donated military aid, and an artillery training team that trained AFU soldiers in using the 105mm Light Gun.