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Austin to Convene Ukraine Defense Contact Group Session

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley will host and convene another session of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Friday.

Airmen load cargo onto an aircraft.
Ukraine Bound
Airmen with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron load cargo during a security assistance mission to Ukraine at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Jan. 13, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Marco A. Gomez
VIRIN: 230113-F-QD077-1036

"The contact group has been instrumental in identifying, synchronizing and ensuring delivery of the military capabilities the Ukrainians need to defend their homeland against Russian aggression," said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder at a briefing today. 

The secretary looks forward to meeting with defense leaders from the approximately 50 nations that are part of this important group dedicated to Ukraine's self-defense, Ryder added. 

Pentagon Spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks to reporters from a lectern.
Pentagon Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder holds a press briefing at the Pentagon, Jan. 17, 2023.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 230117-D-BN624-0174L

Prior to his arrival at Ramstein, Austin will travel to Berlin, Germany to meet with the incoming German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, Ryder said. 

Ryder noted that Ukrainian troops have arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they are receiving training on the Patriot missile system. The training, which will last several months, involves 90 to 100 Ukrainians.

Men in military uniform walk together.
Milley Meeting
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Army leaders responsible for the collective training of Ukrainians at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, Jan. 16, 2023.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Jordan Sivayavirojna, Army National Guard
VIRIN: 230116-Z-UA416-001

Separately, this week, some 600 National Guardsmen, soldiers, Marines and airmen are en route to northern Michigan to take part in the winter portion of Exercise Northern Strike 23. The Michigan Army National Guard will host the exercise from Jan. 20 to 29, at the Northern Michigan All-Domain Warfighting Center.  

Now in its 10th year, Northern Strike allows active duty, reserve and Guard units to challenge themselves in near-arctic conditions while training to meet the objectives of the Defense Department's Arctic Strategy, Ryder said.  

Soldiers ride in tactical vehicles on a dirt road.
Northern Strike
Troops with the Latvian National Armed Forces train during Exercise Northern Strike 22-2 at Carmeuse Calcite Quarry, Rogers City, Mich., Aug. 17, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Boyd, Air National Guard
VIRIN: 220817-Z-HE811-0092

Participants will battle wind, snow and sub-zero temperatures while using skis, snowmobiles and snowshoes to meet their training objectives, he said.  

"As the National Defense Strategy makes clear, the changing climate is creating new corridors of potential future interaction in the Arctic region. Exercises like Northern Strike help ensure our service members are ready to meet those future challenges head-on," Ryder said. 

Later this month, Austin will travel to the Indo-Pacific region to meet with his counterparts from South Korea and the Philippines. 

"These two critical allies continue to bolster our defense partnerships. This upcoming trip is a reaffirmation of our deep commitment to working in concert with allies and partners to chart our shared vision to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific," Ryder said. 

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