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UK Armed Forces on track to train 37,000 Ukrainian recruits

By Chris Fletcher, Senior Army Media Officer

26 June marks the first anniversary of the launch of Operation Interflex, the codename given to the UK Armed Forces’ training programme to develop and prepare Ukrainian recruits to take the fight to their country’s Russian invaders.

To date, some 17,000 Ukrainians have gone through the five-week training package and in the year 2023 to 2024 the UK is on track to deliver another 20,000. Hundreds of British military personnel including from the Army along with military personnel from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania and The Netherlands have been committed to this operation at several locations across the UK.

We have done a big leap since the first day I would not have expected it to be so aggressive, but it keeps me motivated. Roman, Ukrainian Recruit

One year ago, the first two tranches of recruits received a basic five-week training package; however, during the intervening 12 months the requirements have changed to the point whereby the recruits now remain in the UK receiving five weeks of intense training. The instructors are quick to point out the course’s content is very much intelligence lead and therefore continually being updated and developed according to the latest needs.

Of course, it would be wrong to make a direct comparison to the 14 weeks it takes to put a British Army soldier recruit through their basic training, known as the Common Military Syllabus. There is no need to teach these Ukrainians parade square drill, all the classroom-based educational aspects, qualities of a soldier etc. Interflex is solely about improving the survivability and increasing the lethality of people who only a matter of a couple of weeks previously may have been a butcher, a baker, or a computer game maker.

For all too obvious reasons it would be irresponsible to divulge the specific content of the recruits’ training. What I can say is they are taught battlefield casualty drills, the law of armed conflict and cyber warfare. They will spend a lot of time out in the training areas learning fieldcraft skills as well as some of the more key elements such as skill at arms and weapon handling, so they spend many hours on the ranges honing their accuracy skills. As you may imagine, given the prevalence of drones in this conflict the use of and counter drone measures form an important module within their package.

Whilst the average age of the recruits coming through is 33-34 years-old, a clear indicator these are people who had careers and professions before, some have been as young as 18 and as old as 59. Around 11% will have had some previous military experience be that a former serving person or someone with reserve service

I caught up with a group of recruits in their last days of training at a location in the south-east of England to watch them go through a punishing combat fitness regime, under the ever-watchful eye and bellowing rage of a team of Royal Marines Commando instructors and conduct an urban assault operation through a purpose-built training village.

There is an old adage within the military, ‘Train hard and fight easy’, which with a large helping of irony can be attributed to the Russian General, Alexander Sumerov! Now, not for one moment would I ever suggest what these recruits are to face is anything but easy; what I can tell you though is their training was hard, bloody hard. With sweat dribbling down the grimacing faces of those clearly suffering the agonies of extreme physical endurance their Royal Marines Commando instructors were constantly beside them ‘encouraging’ them to push it one step further – and then another.

I spoke, through an interpreter, to one of the recruits, Bordan who had been a computer programmer at a company in the city of Dnipro he said, “The instructors have paid a lot of attention to the training processes, on discipline, building our self-confidence. It was not easy of course, but it was very interesting. We learnt tactics, combat medicine and engineering, as I have not had any military experience it was very useful to me.” When asked if he had any fears, his reply echoed the thoughts of so many of his fellow comrades, simply only for his country and its people, “My fears and inner feelings right now is about the Ukrainian people, all my fellow citizens who are struggling under the Russian invasion and how Russia is influencing their lives, I would like as fast as possible to end this aggression and bring the peaceful life back to the people of Ukraine.”

My fears and inner feelings right now is about the Ukrainian people, all my fellow citizens who are struggling under the Russian invasion and how Russia is influencing their lives, I would like as fast as possible to end this aggression and bring the peaceful life back to the people of Ukraine. BORDAN, UKRAINIAN RECRUIT

Former professional footballer, Roman was greatly appreciative of the training he had received, “I am absolutely content with the level of training I’ve had. We have done a big leap since the first day I would not have expected it to be so aggressive, but it keeps me motivated.” Friend and fellow recruit Vlad who had been a beekeeper said, “Just looking at the situation in Ukraine, missiles falling on the cities destroying them and during all those horrific things I see that Russians should be charged properly and I feel to be the only judge for them because nobody can do this.”

As you read this, spare a thought for these men as by now they will be on their way back, some to the eastern and southern flanks of the frontlines to confront the Russian invaders. Before they left, they had a surprise visit by the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop to the United Kingdom, the Right Reverend Kenneth Nowakowski who conducted a field service in which he blessed all those about to return sprinkling them with holy water and then presenting each recruit with their own set of rosary beads.

Although we are marking the first year of Operation Interflex, many of the Ukrainians don’t observe such anniversaries. For them this is a so continual torture for their country and its people and they set aside one minute of silence every day at 0900hrs to remember those who have died and continue to do so in the defence of their homeland. 

Army is Recruiting.

Now and always.