Operation Unifier Deserves Our Gratitude

Master Corporal Jennyfer Russell receives a commendation from the hands of the Ukrainian Minister of Defence, General Stepan Poltorak, during Operation UNIFIER at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine on March 15, 2016. Photo: Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND IS03-2016-0017-008 ~ Caporal-chef Jennyfer Russell reçoit une Mention élogieuse des mains du Ministre de la Défense ukrainienne, le Général Stepan Poltorak, pendant l’Opération UNIFIER au Centre international de sécurité et de maintien de la paix à Starychi, Ukraine le 15 mars 2016. Photo: Caméra de combat des Forces canadiennes, MDN IS03-2016-0017-008

Marco Levytsky, NP-UN.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council expressed its gratitude to the Canadian troops helping to train Ukrainians fight pro-Russian terrorists in Eastern Ukraine by hosting a dinner for the soldiers of the Edmonton Garrison at the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex, January 15. These soldiers were deployed to Ukraine in March, 2017, returning in September, 2017. Preparations for this event lasted six months. Aside from UCC-APC, other organizations, which assisted by providing accommodation, food, gifts and volunteers, included the Ukrainian National Federation, Edmonton Branch; the Ukrainian Women’s Organization, Edmonton Branch; UCC Edmonton; the Alberta Council for Ukrainian Arts; the League of Ukrainian Canadians, Edmonton Branch; Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex; Saint John Institute; Sandy’s Kitchen; Stawnychy’s Sausage; Daria Luciw; the Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum of Alberta; the Alberta Ukrainian Dance Association; the Bishop Budka Society; the Friends of the Ukrainian Village; the Ukrainian Bilingual Language Association/Ukrainian Catholic Parent Association; Ukrainian Canadian Social Services (Edmonton); the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada and the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada. Entertainment was provided by the Cheremshyna Dancers, Verkhovyna School of Dance, and the Verkhovyna choir.

This was the third time Edmonton’s Ukrainian community paid tribute to the Canadian Armed Forces personnel who provide such a valuable service to Ukraine in that country’s battle with Russian aggression. The first was in May, 2017 at the 24th Annual Fundraising Banquet for the Ukrainian Foundation for College Education (UFCE), held at St. John’s Cultural Centre. The highlight of that particular event was a fireside chat conducted by Gene Zwozdesky with Captain Mike Dullege, a tank officer, and his wife, Christine.

The second was on October 21, when UCC-APC presented an Executive Hetman Award to Commander of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), Lieutenant General Paul Wynnyk. Lt. Gen Wynnyk, incidentally, is of Ukrainian origin. His great grandfather, Roman Wynnyk, came to Canada in 1903 from the village of Radvantsi, about 60 km north of Lviv. He sailed from Hamburg to Halifax on the SS. Arcadia, and, after landing, took the train as far west as they could – Wetaskiwin, AB.

All three events reflect the immense gratitude the Ukrainian community has for the efforts of the CAF and the assistance they are providing for Ukraine under Operation Unifier. This project, which was launched by the Conservative government in 2015 and renewed by the Liberals in 2017, is the CAF mission to support Ukrainian armed forces in Ukraine. The operation’s focus is to assist them with military training. This will help them improve and build their military capacity. The CAF coordinates its training with training by the U.S. and other countries that help in the same way. Military training is one part of Canada’s overall support to Ukraine.

As of December 1, 2017, the CAF Joint Task Force-Ukraine (JTF-U) has trained more than 5160 Ukrainian soldiers. There have been 116 course serials that covered all types of training.

The CAF’s primary focus in Ukraine is on tactical soldier training. This is also known as small team training. It consists of individual weapons training, marksmanship, movement in areas of potential conflict, explosive threat recognition, communication in troop movement and command and control, survival in combat and ethics

Other training includes: explosive device disposal training. military police training, modernizing logistics and medical training.

It is perhaps the last item – medical training – which has been proven to be the most successful aspect of Operation Unifier. This was pointed out to us during this newspaper’s visit to the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre (IPSC) in Starychi, Ukraine, on September 11 of last year. Of particular note are the IFAKs, or Individual First Aid Kits, which are considered among the biggest life-saving contributions Canadians have provided Ukraine. These, incidentally, are donated by the Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF). CUF was established to coordinate, develop, organize and deliver assistance projects generated by Canadians and directed to Ukraine. It is a registered charity in Canada and provides tax receipts for donors CUF has developed an extensive medical aid program for the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), and anyone wishing to donate or find out more information, is invited to visit their website at www.cufoundation.ca. Their address is 145 Evans Avenue, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario, M8Z 5X8; Phone: 416-966-9700.

But the mandate of the medical program is also to mentor the training of Ukrainian soldiers so that they themselves can provide training to their comrades in arms. As of September, 2017 Canadians monitored the training of over 1,000 UAF members in basic medical training, as well as about 100 enhanced level of training plus another 55 instructors. This helps save many lives.

However, it is not only in the field of medical aid that Canadians are mentoring the Ukrainians. “The Ukrainians are stepping forward in a great number of areas,” Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Lubiniecki, who commanded the troops at Starychi between March and September of last year, and was also present at the UCC – APC’s dinner told this newspaper, in an exclusive telephone interview August 5.

“They’ve got the confidence. They’ve spent time in the anti-terrorist operation zone and they’re coming back with confidence in the lessons that they’ve learned and the experience that they have gained and they’re looking to share that with their peers, their fellow armed force soldiers and we look to share with them as peers as well,” he added.

“So that’s really given us the opportunity to sit back and empower the Ukrainian instructors and their own leaders to take the forefront in training delivery to their own soldiers and allow us to provide some feedback and provide options and really let them take the ownership of their training. They are an extremely professional and well-motivated military,” noted Lieut. Col. Lubiniecki.

So, we would like to add our own voice to that of all the Ukrainian community organizations that have expressed gratitude for Operation Unifier. And we hope that, in 2019, when this most valuable contribution to Ukraine’s defence efforts once again comes up for renewal, it gets the renewal it so richly deserves.