Status: 03/27/2023 05:01 a.m
At the US military base Fort Sill in Oklahoma, soldiers from Ukraine took part in a crash course on the state-of-the-art Patriot missile defense system. In a few weeks they will be at war again – along with the high-tech weapons.
Truck-sized military vehicles mounted with massive mobile missile launchers roll into the prairie at Fort Sill. 65 Ukrainian soldiers are training to deploy a Patriot anti-aircraft system. “The vehicles with the launchers are now driving down the site, the others stay here – the operational control center, the mobile radar and the power generator,” explains one of the instructors, who has to remain anonymous for security reasons.
ARD Studio Washington
The sand or carmouflage colored vehicles stop. And immediately the Ukrainian soldiers are in the process of positioning the mobile missile launch pads. The Ukrainians, most of whom are men, have been training in Fort Sill since January.
The training lasted only ten weeks. This is significantly faster than the US Department of Defense had expected. It was very intensive training, six days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., says a senior US military officer.
The instructor, a young man in an army uniform with black sunglasses, can hardly believe how quickly it actually happened. When Americans are trained here, it usually takes up to six months, he explains. But the Ukrainians are so well educated, they have such a strong will. “If someone had told me we could do it in ten weeks – I wouldn’t have believed it.”
The best of the best
For training on the Patriot system, one of the most advanced anti-aircraft systems in the world, Ukraine has selected soldiers with extensive experience in intercepting air strikes. The commanding general of Fort Sill, Brigadier General Shane Morgan, was also impressed that they are the best of the best in what they are doing in the air defenses for Ukraine.
On the field at Fort Sill, instructors watch closely as the Ukrainians set up and position the Patriot battery. “They are now at the point where we only observe,” explains the US trainer.
It is the first time that journalists have been allowed to attend the training of Ukrainians at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Photos and video recordings during training are strictly prohibited for safety reasons.
The Patriot system is one of the most advanced anti-aircraft systems in the world.
Image: ARD Washington (Nina Barth)
Maintenance and repair of the Patriot system
The Ukrainians have now completed the actual training at Fort Sill, which also included the maintenance and repair of the Patriot system. In a few weeks they will be at war again, defending their country against the Russian invaders.
The idea does not leave the instructor cold. He says it’s heartbreaking. “Just today they gave us these bracelets. Just to say thank you again for everything.” He pulls up his sleeve and reveals a braided bracelet in dark green and khaki.
The US instructor says they cooked for each other: typical American and typical Ukrainian dishes. And the menu in Fort Sill was also adjusted for the Ukrainians. According to a US military official, they found that Ukrainians like soup, so more soup was added to the menu.
First to Europe, then back to the war
Fort Sill is almost like a small town: with its own kindergarten, elementary school, fire department, churches and shops. For security reasons, the Ukrainians were not allowed to leave Fort Sill for ten weeks.
Now that the training is complete, they will fly to Europe – where is a secret – and then meet up with the Ukrainians who were trained in Germany and the Netherlands on the Patriot anti-aircraft systems. In the coming weeks, they are said to be returning to Ukraine with the Patriot systems.
Interviews with the Ukrainian soldiers at Fort Sill are not allowed. A US journalist from Ukraine insists on shouting something in Ukrainian to the soldiers as they jog back from the launcher structure towards the command center. They wave to him and call back. “I asked them if they were ready. They said – yes, we are ready,” the journalist translates.
How the US military is training Ukrainian soldiers on high-tech weapons
Nina Barth, ARD Washington, 2023-03-26 11:34 p.m