East Meets West Training in Ukraine
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 7, 1996 U.S. and Eastern European defense officials assembled in Western Ukraine recently for opening ceremonies of Peace Shield 1996, the first multinational peacekeeping exercise held in the former Soviet republic.
U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry called inspiring the sight of more than 1,300 soldiers from 12 nations lined up together June 3 at a Ukrainian army training site near L'viv.
"Five years ago, we could hardly have imagined this joint exercise [being held] by former adversaries," Perry told the assembled ministers and troops. "By our actions on these grounds today, we will write a new history for a new generation. On these grounds where forces once trained for war, we now train our forces for missions of peace."
About 115 U.S. soldiers, primarily Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, based in Vilseck, Germany, participated in the exercise. They trained with troops from Bulgaria, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Romania, Czech Republic and Hungary during the exercise May 31 to June 10.
Ukraine's Pre-Carpathian Military District and the 1st Infantry Division cosponsored the exercise. Ukrainian Army Gen. Lt. Volodimir Kodratenko directed the exercise with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Montgomery Meigs as his deputy.
Ukraine's Defense Minister Valeriy Shmarov said the exercise demonstrates his nation's desire to become an active participant in the world community.
"Ukraine's aspirations are not only to become integrated into the world's economic community, but also to establish interaction in the military sphere," Shmarov said.
Ukraine participates in U.N. peacekeeping operations and currently has troops in NATO's peace implementation force in Bosnia, Shmarov said. Peace Shield 1996 demonstrates the aspirations of both the active NATO members and the Partnership for Peace countries participating in the exercise, "who do all in their power to support peace all over the world," he said.
Nearly four days of situational training in peacekeeping operations were followed by a two-day field training exercise. U.S. Army, Europe, officials said the exercise helped develop common tactics, techniques and procedures for future peacekeeping exercises and potential operations involving U.S. and East European soldiers.
Shmarov said the training would enrich Ukraine's military personnel in technical skills and theoretical knowledge in handling armaments and equipment, and promote the extension of cultural and military exchanges.
"Our military people get a chance to exchange their professional experience and knowledge and get to know each other as human beings," he said. "The fact that we here have made 1,300 new friends is a guarantee that the cause of stabilization and peace on our continent will be assured."