- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A brigade of Army soldiers from the Florida National Guard has been in Ukraine for about a week on a training mission, even as Russian forces continue massing on the border and both countries’ political leaders try to lower tensions.

The troops, assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, are advising and mentoring local forces as part of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.

Known as Task Force Gator, they just took over the mission from the Washington National Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

It makes the 11th rotation of U.S. forces into Ukraine since 2015, when the advisory missions first began, according to the Pentagon.

The mission adjusts in size, scope, and scenario as Ukraine‘s armed forces progress through their development plan. Officials with the Defense Department said it’s a “win-win” for soldiers from the U.S. and Ukraine. It gives the Americans valuable training opportunities and contributes to Kyiv’s defensive capabilities.

“Our ongoing training and support are designed to strengthen relationships and affirm U.S. commitment to the success of a stable and free Ukraine,” Marine Corps Lt. Col. Anton T. Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

Citing security reasons, Pentagon officials declined to say how many U.S. troops are currently in Ukraine. An infantry brigade combat team has about 3,900 to 4,100 soldiers depending on how it is configured.

In addition to the Florida National Guard soldiers, personnel from Special Operations Command Europe play a large role in developing and mentoring Ukraine‘s special operations fighters through regular training exercises, Pentagon officials said.

The U.S. has committed more than $2.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014. But the National Guard troops will not engage in ground combat while in Ukraine, officials said.

“We remain committed to strengthening our strategic defense partnership with Ukraine, including through the provision of security assistance,” Lt. Col. Semelroth said.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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