Manitoba troops prepare to train Ukrainians in Britain and overcome language barriers

CFB Shilo troops are waiting to depart from Kapyong Barracks for the training mission to Britain on Monday.  (Chelsea Kemp/CBC - photo credit)

CFB Shilo troops are waiting to depart from Kapyong Barracks for the training mission to Britain on Monday. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC – photo credit)

Manitoba soldiers leaving on a mission to Britain to train Ukrainian soldiers say the biggest challenge may be language barriers.

Bags belonging to members of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, were loaded onto buses ahead of their journey across the pond on Monday. Their goal is to turn Ukrainian civilians into soldiers as part of the Canadian Armed Forces’ ongoing Operation Unifier.

“I am very proud of 2PPCLI, focused and driving it to accomplish the mission,” said Regiment Cpt. Joshua Register.

“It’s a little celebratory… I would say we were excited, but we’re going there to help people defend their country from a threat.”

He said the biggest challenge of the training is the language barriers between the troops.

Chelsea Kemp/CBC

Chelsea Kemp/CBC

According to the register, about 10 percent of Ukrainians are fluent in English and about 30 percent have a passable level of English. The rest of the trainees must use interpreters.

CFB Shilo troops will be in Britain with a company of about 200 soldiers for about six months.

The operation originally began in 2015 when Canadian soldiers were training Ukrainian soldiers in specialized tactics and leadership in their home country, Register said.

Since the beginning of the operation, the Canadian Armed Forces have trained more than 35,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel in combat tactics and military skills.

Now the training has been altered by the Russian invasion and the last iteration of the operation was launched in the UK in July 2022

Since the beginning of the conflict, members of CFB Shilo have “made every effort” to help.

“We’re just very happy and focused on being able to help the conflict in a meaningful way,” Register said.

Chelsea Kemp/CBC

Chelsea Kemp/CBC

During the operation, regimental soldiers work with Ukrainians who have no previous military experience to make them soldiers.

Soldiers will provide condensed training exercises over 33 days, focusing on marksmanship and some training in other aspects of combat such as medical supplies and aid to civilians.

“That takes people who are a resource there and turns them into more effective fighters to defend their homeland,” Register said.

Regimental troops have practiced and repeated training and drills through interpreters as part of their preparation for deployment.

Chelsea Kemp/CBC

Chelsea Kemp/CBC

It can be hard to tell how practice will go, Register said, until they actually get down to the ground and start doing it.

While Canada sends troops to lead the training, the soldiers will only bring themselves and their gear uniform, he said. All other training items are supplied by foreign military partners.

Warrant Officer Shelldon Hawman is part of the continent departing for Britain. He described the operation as Canada’s commitment to Ukraine.

“It’s no longer a question of going to the front lines…at the end of those 33 days, they’ll be sent to their units that are already fighting in Ukraine,” Hawman said.

Before being posted to Shilo, Hawman spent four years at the 5th Canadian Division Gagetown Support Base in New Brunswick. Hawman said he will use his experience teaching there while in England.

The education of Ukrainians is no different than the education of civilians in Canada, he said. The Canadian military accepts civilians who join the Canadian Armed Forces and trains them in the same way.

“There’s no real difference in what we focus on training for the people who become soldiers. It’s just the timeframe that’s a bit tighter and the ending is definitely like you’re going to use those skills,” Hawman said.

For him, the focus is on developing three skills for Ukrainian soldiers – shooting, movement and communication. This includes how to work within a section, move as a section, and do weapon training.

“We also trained for it and spent a lot of time becoming professional soldiers and now all these guys are getting a chance to pass on that knowledge and hopefully help the people of Ukraine.”


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