U.S. paratroops will soon begin training members of Ukraine's active-duty military, expanding a program in western Ukraine that began by providing support for the country's newly formed national guard.
Troops with the Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade will train up to five battalions of Ukrainian soldiers as operation Fearless Guardian enters a second phase in November, U.S. Army Europe said.
"The training is part of our ongoing efforts to contribute to Ukraine's long-term military reform and professionalism and to help improve Ukraine's internal defense capabilities and training capacity," said Donald Wrenn, a USAREUR spokesman.
Since April, the 173rd has been rotating soldiers through Ukraine for Fearless Guardian I, providing support for the country's national guard.
The training was initially conceived as a beefed-up boot camp, with a focus on marksmanship and small unit tactical planning. But because many of the trainees are already hardened from front-line fighting against separatists in Ukraine's east, the U.S. training has begun incorporating new subjects, including tips on how to counter drone surveillance.
The curriculum for Fearless Guardian II is still being developed, but instruction for Ukrainian soldiers will likely resemble the course work from previous training, USAREUR said.
"This training is part of our long-running defense cooperation with Ukraine and is taking place at the invitation of the Ukrainian government," Wrenn said.
This additional program is expected to bring total security assistance committed to Ukraine since 2014 to more than $244 million.
Russia, which continues to back separatist fighters in Ukraine, has been critical of the Army's training effort, calling it an unnecessary provocation.
U.S. military support for Ukraine has been on the rise since Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014. However, the U.S. has so far declined to provide the lethal arms that Kiev seeks.