Marines special operations veterans training Ukrainians to fight explain how they were able to dodge the Russian invasion

Ukrainian soldier RPG sniper rifle Irpin

Ukrainian troops will carry rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles to the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 13, 2022.DIMITARDIL KOFF / AFP via Getty Images

  • Since the Russian attack began on February 24, countries around the world have been rushing to support Ukraine.

  • Veterans from the armed forces of those countries also went to Ukraine to help train the Ukrainian army.

  • Andy Milburn, a 31-year US Marine Corps veteran, is in Ukraine and leads one of these training activities.

As Russia’s war in Ukraine approached three months, Moscow failed to achieve any of its main objectives. Russian troops have suffered humiliating defeats, suffered many casualties and are now focusing on much smaller parts of eastern Ukraine.

Since the invasion of Russia began on February 24, the United States and other countries have Billions of military, economic and humanitarian aid To Ukraine.

Foreigners too Competing against Ukraine to help Ukrainian army. Most notable of these efforts are those of the Mozart Group, led by Andy Milburn, who retired in 2019 after working for the US Marine Corps for 31 years, consisting primarily of special operations veterans.

Marine raider shooting training in Egypt

US Marines will conduct shooting training on September 7, 2021 during an exercise in Egypt.US Army / Spc.Amber covena

Milburn was a Marine who served as Deputy Commander of the US Special Operations Command Central and was the first Marine to lead the Special Operations Task Force in the battle between Iraq and ISIS in Syria.

Members of the Mozart group are already stationed in Ukraine and the group has added Members and funds We support the operation there. The Mozart Group is in Ukraine for two main reasons. It is about enhancing the capabilities and sustainable capabilities of the Ukrainian army in a way that is consistent with US foreign policy and protecting vulnerable civilians.

It is important to emphasize that members of the Mozart group are not directly involved in combat — they have seen actions, but are only involved in self-defense — and their actions in Ukraine are entirely U.S. Neutrality ActThis prohibits Americans from joining foreign troops or launching their own wars against countries where the United States is not at war.

In a written interview, Milburn told insiders what he saw in Ukraine, how his group trained Ukrainians, and how the war there compared to his experience in the Ukrainian army. I told you if it would be done.

Military training instructor first aid Ukraine

The instructor will explain the basics of first aid to Ukrainian civilians during training held by the Zakarpattia Veterans Movement on February 19, 2022.SerhiiHudak / Ukrinform / Future Publishing via Getty Images

What skills and abilities did the Ukrainian army you encountered when you arrived in Ukraine?

They needed basic skills, from handling weapons to zeroing weapons, shooting, and moving squads.

Many have already seen the battle, but it’s a very “party that comes as you are”, territorial defense, and even [Ukrainian special-operations force] Units drive personnel into battle with little or no training.

Medical training is always very important. They have medic-to-soldier rations and their basic medical skills are inferior to their UK and US counterparts.

As the battle progressed, have there been changes in the needs of Ukrainians and the training you could provide to them?

The turnover level meant that they were constantly dealing with a significant number of new soldiers, so there was no real change in their needs. Also, the skills we teach are perishable and cannot always be practiced online.

I’ve added width and depth to my training, but I have a little more time with the drone [anti-tank guided missiles]..

Military vehicle destroyed in Bucha, Ukraine

On April 18, 2022, armored personnel carriers and other destroyed military vehicles were burned down in the fields of Bucha, Ukraine.Alexei Ferman / Getty Images

What do you think the Ukrainians have made it possible for them to succeed in areas where they have fought off the Russian attack?

Morale and determination were key factors in success — but terrain was a key factor in allowing Ukrainian troops to maintain their position.

In the north and urban areas, Russia’s tendency to stay on the road has fought against them. Outside the northern cities, the ground was wooded or wetlands, which allowed defenders to easily invade the Russian front and attack armor columns from the sides.

What is your rating on the performance of the Russian army so far? Has it worked, and what do you attribute the hardship to?

Russian troops here have proven to be very unimpressive. Almost without exception, they are poorly trained, poorly disciplined, and lacking cohesion. Their tactics belong to a bygone — little understanding of the combined arms and no integration of infantry with armored attacks.

Their equipment is also poor — T-72 [tanks] And BRDM [armored personnel carriers] It tends to burn with the impact of highly explosive missiles, many of which appear to be wearing Soviet-era uniforms.

After the Russian army looked poor in Georgia in 2008, Putin announced a series of perhaps radical reforms — but I’m told they succumbed to corruption.

Anyone with education, influence, or money can escape military service, what one Ukrainian who lived in Russia for 20 years called the wreckage of society to meet his rank. Leave.

Kieu Ukraine Russian paratroopers

Russian Airborne Troops in the Kyiv region in March 2022.Russian Ministry of Defense /

How does the battle in Ukraine compare to the battle experienced in the US military? In your mind, is the US military prepared for the kind of war that is being fought in Ukraine?

It doesn’t really compare. The US military tends to overestimate combat experience — and of course the term itself is relative.

I argue that few U.S. forces have experienced the fierce battles experienced by Ukrainian responders. Perhaps the exception to me was the Battle of Fallujah, because, like my own child, I hate the dark, closed space that maliciously accommodates people. [that] It scared me more than what happened outdoors.

In line with the T-72, knowing you are within range of enemy weapons, or hitting the ground above you while a Russian cannon is waiting for the first Russian foot soldier. Putting anti-tank weapons on your shoulders Down the stairs so you can kill him is an experience that most of us in the West don’t share.

Still, Ukrainians are humble enough to understand that in most cases such experience alone does not make them a skilled soldier. Many of the Ukrainian infantry thrown into the defense of Kyiv had to learn at work.

I had a hard time manipulating the safety catch of an AK-47 (a nasty flaw in that particular weapon) until the platoon leader handed over a bag of grenades and instructed them to use it instead. talked. “It’s that easy!” Shouted a novice soldier with a relief that wasn’t meant to be ironic.

The US military isn’t ready for any other reason — and these are cultural. Ukrainian soldiers understand the excellence of the “kill chain” in modern warfare, the need to establish enemy perception and shooting standoffs in ways that US soldiers do not understand.

Destroyed tanks can be seen near a damaged building in Mariupol, Ukraine

Mariupol, the Ukrainian city on March 26, 2022.Stringer / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

If anything, do you think it was overlooked or misunderstood in Western coverage of the war?

I think the United States needs to accept the possibility of Ukraine’s victory — and stop shuffling its support because of the exaggerated fear of escalation.

US policy in this sense is inconsistent — either we are providing deadly assistance. It’s the red line, not whether there is a US contractor in the country that oversees the distribution of logistics according to priority, or whether to offer Ukrainians long-range strike drones as the Turks did.

Does the Mozart Group make a difference in the downrange?

It’s really hard to say with certainty that we are — how do you prove that? Our efforts, to a limited extent, have intangible effects. Our Ukrainian partners are pleased and probably comforting that we are here, even if we do not represent the US government.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a veteran of the Greek Army (the 575th Marine Battalion and the National Service of the Army Council), and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

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