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US to expand combat training for Ukrainian troops

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon will expand military combat training for Ukrainian forces, using the slower winter months to instruct larger units in more complex battle skills, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The U.S. has already trained about 3,100 Ukrainian troops on how to use and maintain certain weapons and other equipment, including howitzers, armored vehicles and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS. But senior military leaders for months have discussed expanding that training, touting the need to improve the ability of Ukraine’s company- and battalion-sized units to move and coordinate attacks across the battlefield.

A battalion can include as many as 800 troops; a company is much smaller, with a couple hundred forces.

According to officials, the training will take place at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. And the aim is to use the winter months to hone the skills of the Ukrainian forces so they will be better prepared to counter any spike in Russian attacks or efforts to expand Russia’s territorial gains.

Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program has not been publicly announced, said the Pentagon views the expansion as a logical next step for the Ukrainian troops. They said it would mirror, to a limited degree, the types of training that U.S. forces get at Defense Department training centers, such as those in California and Louisiana.

Officials said it would include classroom instruction and field work that would begin with small squads and gradually grow to involve larger units. It would culminate with a more complex combat exercise bringing an entire battalion together. All together, the training could last as long as a month.

A wide range of Ukrainian troop training is being done in a number of locations across Europe, by the U.S. the British and other allies. It has, for the most part, focused on weapons systems, logistics and other Western equipment.

The expanded U.S. effort will be done by U.S. Army Europe Africa’s 7th Army Training Command. It comes on the heels of the Pentagon’s announcement early last month that it was establishing a security assistance headquarters in Germany that will oversee all weapons transfers and military training for Ukraine.

The new command post, called the Security Assistance Group Ukraine, signals a more permanent, long-term program to continue to aid Kyiv in its fight against Russia.