Australian personnel are preparing to induct the second cohort of “citizen-soldiers” as a part of Operation Kundu, the Australian Ministry of Defence announced on 21 November, signalling an ongoing commitment to opposing the Russian invasion and providing skills to make the trainees from Ukraine battle-ready.
Nearly two years on from the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 30,000 Ukrainian troops have so far been trained in the south of England by a multi-nation force led by the UK, known as Operation Interflex, that began in June 2022. Australia, New Zealand and Canada agreed to send contingents to support the effort in August, and were later joined by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Norway and Sweden.
Major John Moulton, Commander of the Australian contingent, emphasised the significance of the training for the rapid conversion of recruits into combat-ready soldiers. He highlighted the urgency of their mission, given the existential threat facing Ukraine, and the commitment of the trainees to defend their democracy and restore peace.
The training encompasses a broad spectrum of military skills, starting from basic infantry tactics to more complex procedures like urban and trench warfare, combat casualty care and handling explosive ordnance. The Australian trainers, primarily drawn from Darwin, bring their experience to the forefront, teaching skills vital for survival and success on the battlefield.
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One Australian Army trainer underscored the diverse backgrounds of the Ukrainian recruits, ranging from students to tradespeople, all united by the need to defend their country. The training begins with fundamental aspects such as configuring body armour and progresses to advanced infantry skills including building clearance and tactical movements.
Ukrainians train as part of Operation Interflex
During an on-site visit to Operation Interflex by Army Technology in November 2022, Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) personnel were observed engaged in intense simulated urban combat exercises, as part of their training in southern England. The training site offered a realistic setting for preparing these soldiers for the harsh realities of war, with a simulated battlefield environment complete with blank ammunition, smoke effects, and audio recordings of injured soldiers and civilians to create a disturbingly immersive experience. They practiced urban warfare techniques, moving through buildings and clearing rooms, with the assistance of military trainers and translators.
The training also featured a reproduction of a Russian trench system, similar to those encountered in eastern Ukraine, where AFU soldiers practiced assaulting enemy positions. The use of civilian amputees to simulate battlefield casualties added a stark realism to the exercises, providing the recruits with essential first aid skills crucial for survival.
Upon completing their training, the recruits were equipped with essential gear including combat clothing, body armour, ear defences, waterproofs and sleeping bags. The provision of heavy-duty sleeping bags, roll mats and heated accommodation aims to safeguard against cold-related injuries, ensuring the troops can operate effectively in harsh conditions.
Additional reporting from Richard Thomas.