Teaching vehicle recovery in Ukraine

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Under the watchful eye of their ukrainian instructors and of the visiting Joint Task Force Ukraine personnel, recruits from the 184 Training Center learn how to react to an ambush, in Starychi, Ukraine on May 12, 2016 during Operation UNIFIER. Photo: Capt J.P. Coulombe, PAO JTF-U AK51-2016-035-004 ~ Sous les regards de leur instructeurs ukrainiens et des visiteurs de la Force operationnelle interarmées Ukraine, les recrues du Centre d'entrainement 184 apprennent à réagir à une embuscade à Starychi, le 12 mai 2016, dans le cadre de l'opération UNIFIER. Photo : Capt J.P. Coulombe, OAP FOI-U AK51-2016-035-004

By Sgt A. Toupin

One of the popular beliefs among Canadian personnel was that the Ukrainian Army was disorganized and lacked skills. I saw something completely different.

During the entire training period at 184 Training Centre in Starychi, we worked with an organized professional army with a training system similar to our own. They use well-structured lesson plans, and they demonstrated the desire to enhance their knowledge and work methods.

It was quite a challenge, and there wasn’t much time. We had to review and adapt the Canadian lesson plans to provide more specific training. In adapting them, we managed to compress the three weeks of training involved in the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers School course at CFB Borden into two intensive days. The resulting instruction focussed on developing their skills and knowledge, instead of going over what they had already mastered.

During these two days of training, our efforts focussed on sharing standard NATO procedures for repair recovery requests and Mobile Repair Team command procedures.

The first part of the training was conducted in class at 184 Training Centre. We managed to impart all of the relevant theory in a single day. Back-and-forth discussion between the instructors and the Ukrainian students went a long way towards facilitating understanding and establishing rapport among group members. The discussions were enriching, both culturally and professionally. We overcame the language barrier thanks to our interpreters.

The second day focussed completely on recovery practices. We used the explanation/demonstration/imitation (EDI) method of instruction. The Ukrainians really liked the EDI approach, but it posed  a challenge for our instructors who had to “demonstrate” on Ukrainian recovery equipment. On top of equipment differences, our instructors had to deal with other factors such as the access to experienced operators and the lack of fuel for the vehicles.

In a word, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are eager to learn and more than willing to work in partnership with Canada. They are professional, loyal and extremely welcoming. My experience as an instructor in Ukraine had highs and lows, but overall it was completely gratifying.

—Sgt Toupin was an instructor

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