US training of Ukrainian troops adequate but not perfect, IG reports

Ukrainian soldiers have received adequate training from U.S. Army personnel in the use of sophisticated American military technology, but challenges remain, Department of Defense investigators concluded in a report released Thursday.

DoD’s Office of Inspector General “did not identify any instance” between April and December 2022 when U.S. military advisers “did not provide [Ukrainian Armed Forces]-requested operational or maintenance training.”

“Ensuring that Ukrainian forces are proficient in using the equipment provided by the DoD is critically important,” Inspector General Robert Storch said in a press release. “Such proficiency leads to greater mission success and reduces the likelihood of use of U.S.-provided equipment in a way that could lead to the equipment failing or becoming unusable.”

The largely positive report underscored some challenges, however. Investigators found that, for a small number of programs, the Army failed to promptly provide equipment manuals in Ukrainian.

“The backlog of translated materials may have negatively impacted the training of some platforms,” the report noted. Army officials blamed the logjam on delays in foreign disclosure approval — the process by which the government vets and distributes sensitive information to foreign parties.

Army trainers also struggled to upskill Ukrainian soldiers to U.S. military standards because the Ukrainian government only allotted a limited amount of time for the effort, according to investigators. Advanced individual training for a U.S. Army cannon crewmember learning the ins and outs of an M119 howitzer usually lasts seven weeks; Ukrainian troops reportedly received six days of training for the same weapon.

A Ukrainian official interviewed by investigators insisted the tight turnaround was sufficient, since most Ukrainians participating in the training were, they claimed, experienced fighters.

The Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, established and overseen by the 7th Army Training Command, is tasked with “training, equipping and providing doctrinal assistance” to the UAF. Conceived in 2015, the group has coordinated live-fire exercises, tactical drills and other exercises at Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany since April 2022.

The report estimates the U.S. had sent Ukraine $22 billion in military aid through presidential drawdowns between August 2021 and May 2023 (other tallies claim it’s more than twice that). Much of that assistance has come in the form of advanced weaponry unfamiliar to Ukrainian recipients, such as the HIMARS rocket launcher and M109 howitzer.

American cash and gear continues to flood into the eastern European country. DoD announced Tuesday a fresh $325 million infusion of aid. Some lawmakers and analysts have begun to clamor for increased scrutiny, fearful of what they view as runaway spending with unclear end goals and dubious impacts.

A separate DoD IG report released Monday found that defense personnel sometimes struggled to “complete required shipping or transfer documentation” or “confirm quantities of items being transferred” to Ukraine, gaps that could lead to excess or misplaced aid deliveries, investigators warned.

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