Reservists Enhance Ukrainian Soldiers’ Survivability


Four Australian Army Reserves engineers have deployed with the first rotation of Australian Army soldiers delivering leadership training courses to Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) soldiers in England.

Reserve soldiers also make up the majority of the 20-strong Finnish Army contingent who are partnering with the Australians in delivering the leadership training.

Commanding Officer of the Finnish contingent Captain Visa Saaristo believed it was the first time Finnish and Australian Army soldiers were working together in significant numbers.

“We have seven regular soldiers and 13 reservists in our team,” Captain Saaristo said.

The Finnish soldiers are divided among the teams and work hand in hand with the Australians to deliver the leadership training.

The training is part of the UK-led multinational mission, Operation INTERFLEX to provide military skills training to the AFU.

“It was a small surprise how similar we are, our instructor skills, orders, weapon handling, everything is quite similar,” Captain Saaristo said.

He said the Finns had enjoyed getting to know the Australians and constant engagement between the two teams meant training had gone smoothly. They were both, at the end of the day, working to the same outcome.

“Our aim of the mission is to increase the skills of the Ukrainian soldiers,” Captain Saaristo said.

‘Some of our tactics are old school and we have had to adapt our training to suit their current needs. They have more battle experience than we do.’

An Australian Army Reserve combat engineer from Adelaide’s 9th Brigade (names and ranks are being withheld to protect identities) said he had jumped at the opportunity to be part of the mission.

“We don’t get these chances very often, especially in reserve time. I’m happy to be here and contribute what I can,” the combat engineer said.

A firefighter in his civilian job, the combat engineer said his role on Operation Kudu (Australia’s contribution to the UK-led multinational mission) was to deliver additional coaching in counter-explosive ordinance in relation to mines, booby traps and improvised explosive devices.

He and the other engineers had been pooling their resources and skills to add useful training segments to the course as necessary.

Another of the reserve engineers, a Defence public servant from Adelaide, delivered a classroom lesson in identifying vulnerable points when conducting mounted operations, identifying indicators of explosive hazards and how to deal with that threat.

Using a whiteboard, he demonstrated how to position infantry fighting vehicles and soldiers most effectively, to navigate congestion points and move forward safely on the battlefield.

The engineer said as much as he has enjoyed delivering lessons, he has been learning just as much from the AFU soldiers.

“Some of our tactics are old school and we have had to adapt our training to suit their current needs,” the engineer said.

“They have more battle experience than we do. For example, they have taught us a lot about the enemy using drones to drop explosives.”

Reports are that morale is high among the Ukrainian soldiers, many of who were using their time in the UK to rest from the high stress environment of the front line and learn as much as they can before returning to the battlefield.

“I’m just glad to be able to offer anything we can in terms of teaching and training that gives them that one per cent advantage in the fight.”

/Public Release. View in full here.