More than a week after the one-year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine, the National Guard’s top officer visited Guardsmen in Grafenwoehr, Germany who are helping to ensure the combat effectiveness of Ukrainian troops.
Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, met the Guardsmen after extending a European itinerary that originally included regional security talks with African chiefs of defense in Italy.
The Guardsmen in Grafenwoehr are at the forefront of training, equipping and assisting Ukrainians just off the front lines of Ukraine’s fight for democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"Our Guardsmen and their active-component Army partners are exceptional trainers, and the Ukrainian soldiers are motivated learners," Hokanson said.
Elements of the New York Army Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team — collectively known as Task Force Orion — staff the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine mission.
The JMTG-U is a rotational mobilization under the operational command authority of U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa and 7th Army Training Command.
In Grafenwoehr, Hokanson met with Task Force Orion leadership and soldiers at Camp Kherson, the JMTG-U's current home.
"It is important for me to see you here to ensure you have everything you need to make the Ukrainians successful," he told them.
"The whole world is watching the work you’re doing," Hokanson continued, "and it’s making a huge difference."
More than 150 Task Force Orion soldiers arrived at Grafenwoehr, the largest U.S. military training facility in Europe, last August.
Task Force Orion assumed the JMTG-U mission from Task Force Gator, a unit established from the Florida Army Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Task Force Gator deployed to Combat Training Center-Yavoriv in western Ukraine in November 2021.
The unit repositioned to Grafenwoehr in February 2022, and its Guardsmen were some of the last Americans to leave Ukraine.
Guard units have supported the JMTG-U since 2016, helping build Ukraine's defense capacity to deter adversaries and defend itself against further aggression.
"We are the conduit between active U.S. military forces and members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," said Col. William Murphy, the commander of Task Force Orion.
"We know the urgency of this mission and the gravity of what the Ukrainian people have at stake," he added.
Guard elements from several states have built enduring relationships with their Ukrainian counterparts for 30 years.
The California Guard’s pairing with Ukraine in 1993 was one of the first partnerships established as part of the Guard's State Partnership Program.
"Our close ties with Ukraine speak to the global strategic relevance of the Guard," Hokanson said. "Training is more effective when it’s built on trust and enduring relationships."
"I am incredibly proud of the work our Guardsmen and women continue to do in support of our Ukrainian partners," he noted.
When Hokanson asked Task Force Orion Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Markle about the morale of the Ukrainians, he was told plainly: "They are extremely motivated to push the Russians out of Ukraine."
— By Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely, National Guard Bureau