Over the years, the National Guard has supported operations in Ukraine – even before Russia decided to invade earlier this year. And this long-standing relationship has bolstered the push to support the Ukraine troops overseas. And although there have been reports of National Guard soldiers fighting and dying in Ukraine, the National Guard has refuted these allegations while continuing to stick to the White House policy of no direct action. But just because there are no troops on the ground fighting, the National Guard is still working to support Ukraine. Plus, prior years have helped to build up Ukraine’s military to prepare them to be ready for the invasion from Russia in February 2022.
California National Guard
The California National Guard has had a close working relationship with the Ukraine National Guard since 1993. Over the past 29 years, they have worked and trained together, and some of these trainings have led to strong friendships. When Russia invaded Ukraine and experts had little faith in how Ukraine would respond, those who had worked with the Ukrainians were not surprised. California Adjutant General Army Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin knew. He said, “Our fighter pilots have been telling everyone for years that the Ukrainian Air Force is pretty good. And in the meantime, a lot of people in the West were pooh-poohing them. Well, the proof is in the pudding. Their Air Force is a lot better than everyone thought except for the California Air National Guard who knew these guys were pretty good.”
Within half an hour of the Russian invasion, Gen. Baldwin started getting calls asking for help. The California Guard stood up their Joint Operations Center and saw similar things being shared by their Ukrainian partners. He took the information and passed the request to the U.S. European Command and the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. Doing what they could to support Ukraine.
Florida National Guard
Days before the Russian invasion in February Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the withdrawal of the Florida National Guard. It ended an eight-year mission that previously had taken place at a base outside the western Ukrainian city of Lviv by other deployed Guard units along with soldiers from the U.K., Canada, Latvia, and other allied countries. On April 29th, the Pentagon announced that elements of the Florida National Guard have resumed their training mission with the Ukrainian military forces. Details on when and where are limited but the military will keep with President Joe Biden’s policy of no direct U.S. military involvement inside Ukraine. Instead, U.S. forces will work to train their Ukrainian counterparts on bases elsewhere in Europe.
Other States Supporting Ukraine Forces
The National Guard has also found ways to support the war by providing equipment to send overseas. At least five states, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia all announced plans to provide M113s over to Ukraine forces. The U.S. Army considers the M113, its Vietnam War battle taxi, obsolete and stopped buying them in 2006. But the specialty of the M113 which has tracks weighing far less than an Abrams tank might give Ukraine’s forces transportation and protection. Before sending out the M113s, the military has made sure each one is operational and ready to support Ukraine in the war effort.