Canadian Army training Ukrainian Military Police at Operation UNIFIER

Article / November 1, 2016 / Project number: 16-0306

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By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

An Army Public Affairs team is deploying to Ukraine and will be providing further coverage of Operation UNIFIER in the coming weeks.

Kingston, Ontario  — A Canadian Army officer says efforts to bring the Armed Forces of Ukraine up to speed on NATO military policing practices as part of Operation UNIFIER (Op UNIFIER) have been a great success.

Op UNIFIER is the name of Canada’s contribution to an ongoing multinational training mission that is building capacity in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Canadian troops have been on the ground there since the summer of 2015 as Joint Task Force-Ukraine, sharing their expertise in a wide range of soldiering skills.

Major Greg Losier recently returned to his position at the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre in Kingston, Ontario after spending several weeks leading a team charged with training Ukrainian troops in various aspects of military policing.

In the following interview, Maj Losier discusses the challenges of the task, the enthusiasm of both his team and the trainees, and the role of the international military policing family.

What is the context of the military policing aspect of Op UNIFIER?

The Ukrainians have something called the Military Law and Order Service. It’s a nascent military police capability that stood up just a few years ago. It’s a bit different culturally compared to what we’re used to in a Western military. The old Soviet structures didn’t really have fulsome military police and investigative capabilities per se, and the Ukrainians were sort of a product of that culture.

Our main effort is training in proper use of force and personal protection so that they can become more interoperable with NATO in the future. And we’ve also provided a military police investigation course. Ukraine is actually collaborating with Poland and Lithuania to put together a brigade structure with a platoon of field-capable military police from each of the three countries.

What did the training consist of?

I was appointed as the team lead back in April, and I had the luxury of being able to assemble and hand-pick a very competent team. There were eight members of our team, five military police and three non-military police to provide us support.

Training consisted of a variety of lectures, practical scenarios to support the lectures, and some additional exercises. So we would do theory, demonstration, and then we’d go out and practice in the actual deployed environment.

How would you describe the experience?

The Ukrainians took some of their best and brightest and put them together in this particular platoon so they could train and work together to eventually deploy in the NATO environment. What we had as a training audience was a group of very fit, very experienced, very capable and very motivated military police soldiers that were hungry to learn as much as they could about NATO.

It was an absolute pleasure to work with such a group of professionals. They are phenomenal soldiers in their own right, very well experienced. I was incredibly impressed with the group, all ranks within the group, with how keen and motivated they are to work towards this goal.

We delivered the training in three weeks. It was very gratifying to see the progress of a group from start to finish in such a short period of time.

What were the greatest challenges?

One of the biggest challenges we have is language. It’s the Cyrillic alphabet, Ukrainian language, and of course Ukrainian and Russian are spoken interchangeably. I was able to get the services of a Ukrainian speaker and writer as well as a Russian speaker and writer to assist with translation of our curriculum.

People can translate information but when it comes to technical language, military language, there’s always a challenge to ensure that the translation is being done as well as possible. We mitigated that in large part by bringing our own linguistic support, actual military police and military police officers that understood the curriculum and that broke down most of the communication barriers right there.

The NATO military police community is, as hokey as it sounds, very much a family environment. And that was one of the things we really stressed upon with this group – to say, ‘Folks you’re now part of the military police family.’ And once they saw they were part of this wider community, it really assisted in focusing the efforts on both sides to ensure that we would be able to work well together in the future, which is the ultimate goal.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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