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11 August, 2018  ▪  Спілкувався: Yuriy Lapayev

Fraser Auld: “I think the most critical resource in every military is the people”

The Ukrainian Week discussed issues and goals of Canadian training mission in Ukraine and why it is valuable not only for Ukrainians but for Canadians with Operation UNIFIER Commander Lieutenant Colonel Fraser Auld

Which activities are the Canadian participants of Operation UNIFIER currently working on? Can you provide some figures or statistics? On which aspects/themes are Canadian instructors focused on?


- To put Operation UNIFIER into context, we have approximately 200 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel here in Ukraine. We are focused on the number of different areas. One of the main areas is supporting the collective and individual training the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) conduct at the Combat Training Center in the Yavoriv region. The Combat Training Center is part of International Peacekeeping and Security Centre (IPSC) in Starychi. And we have approximately 30% of our task force focused on supporting the Combat Training Center in Yavoriv, conducting individual and collective training support. So what this really means is that Canadian trainers train and mentor Ukrainian instructional staff; it’s more about the CAF supporting and advising Ukrainian instructors and Ukrainian Staff. So it’s more of a “train the trainer” approach than what it used to be. We don’t do individuals training courses anymore. We are most focused on training the trainer. It’s a great indication of progress because, frankly, the AFU doesn’t need us to train soldiers anymore. So we are focused on helping the AFU to develop instructors, planners, and staff that can build and run good exercises for training. We also have a part of our forces supporting Combat Engineer training down in the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Demining Centre in Kamyanets-Podilsky. CAF Combat Engineers work everyday side-by-side with their Ukrainian colleagues. They are working to develop the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capabilities of the AFU. There are Ukrainian Combat Engineers, learning to dispose of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and unexploded ordnances. A lot of remnants of war are still left behind, whether it’s mines, unexploded ordnances, or IEDs – they all are dangerous not only for military personnel but also for civilians; they are dangerous in general. So Canada has been working for several years now in Kamyanets-Podilskyi to help the AFU to develop capabilities that are able to address this explosive threat. We also have members of Operation UNIFIER, who are responsible for military police training at the 25th Military Police Training Center in Lviv. This is something that has had great success. The AFU have a Military Law and Order Service - the Military Police branch of the AFU which provide their police function. The 25th Military Police Training Center in Lviv runs a series of courses, 3 months long, to help train military police for the AFU. And Canada helps them with running the courses, providing advice for an instructor’s course. But again it’s more about working with existing Ukrainian instructors and Ukrainian staff; it’s not so much about Canadians actually doing training with students. It’s a “train the trainer” approach. Canada is also supporting tactical medical training, which is very important obviously when you have soldiers that are wounded. It is critical that a military have the capability to treat and to help wounded soldiers. It’s important to morale, it’s important for the country; to be able to save it’s wounded service man. So we have Canadians really spread out throughout the country teaching combat medic courses. We also have a number of Canadians at the 205th Tactical Medical Training Center in Desna, assisting that center with delivering training to new combat medics.  Those courses are making a difference; they help soldiers in the East. An encouraging story is that survivability of soldiers in the East has improved as a result of the first aid training delivered, not only by us, but by British and American instructors, we are all training combat first aid and making sure that first aid skills are among the fundamental skills of all soldiers. We also have personnel in a number of smaller, more specialized areas, but non the less important. We are supporting sniper training, Non-Commissioned Officer development in a number of academies throughout Ukraine. We are also supporting the development of Officers with a small team in Odessa Military Academy. In addition we have a number of liaison officers and advisers that are working in Kyiv in a number of a key headquarters, providing a kind of a critical link to some of the higher headquarters. And finally, on the 18th of May, Canada signed a Technical Arrangement with a National Guard of Ukraine (NGU) to begin to provide them with support as well. Right now, Operation UNIFIER only provides training support on a periodic basis for the NGU. Generally, it is in the form of training for the staff officers, giving them operational planning training, so that the NGU’s headquarter staff are trained with NATO-compatible skills. That is kind of a raw overview of Operation UNIFIER and what we are doing in Ukraine. And frankly we do a lot for a task force of just two hundred people.

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Have there been some recent changes in the needs of Ukrainian soldiers/ Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) since the start of the Operation?

- For me personally, it is my first experience here in Ukraine, I have been there almost four months. But I have read some previous reports, and I have spoken to previous Commanders, and I can say that definite progress has been made. As I mention before, our approach is now more about training instructors, even coaching instructors, advising Ukrainian staff, helping with providing planning training, how to plan, how to budget. We are starting to move away from very low-level hands on field training. Now we are moving to headquarters and the higher level of skills required within the institution so that you can effectively and efficiently plan your military training, execute it and conduct an after action review to make your next course even better.

Are there any plans to expand the Operation? In which fields we can enhance our cooperation?

- At this time there are no Canadian plans that I’m aware of to increase the size of a task force. It will remain around two hundred for the foreseeable future as I know. But we are always opportunity aware. Operation UNIFIER is always on the lookout for any opportunities that offer the best added value for Ukraine. Really what we are looking to do is get the most value out of every single CAF soldier we have here in Ukraine. In order to do that sometimes it means pursuing established opportunities and other times, frankly, we take advantage of opportunities that pop-up; we adjust our structure and we invest in the opportunities that make sense. The size of task force means nothing; our strength is our ability to move throughout the country and adjust our staff to their new situation – we are ready to do that if the value is great. One of the areas where I think we can enhance cooperation is on the forces management. Every military force requires a robust and well-developed force management system. What I mean by that is things like trade structures, rank structures, promotion, moving people from one base to another, succession planning, be able to spot highly talented people, identify them and then move them into your organization to move them up and up and create the leaders of tomorrow. The ability to manage your force, not only the people, but also the equipment, computers, etc, is critical to the health of the force. And this is likely the area for future cooperation, not only with Canada, but also with other countries providing assistance. Providing some of that force management assistance I think could be very helpful to the AFU because the most critical resource in every military, I think, is the people. A lot of militaries are really focused on equipment, tanks, ships and planes, but the reality is that the most important thing should be effectively and efficiently managing the people. All of the militaries around the world sometimes forget that and need to be reminded of that. It is this area, where maybe we can increase our cooperation in the future.

How do the CAF members evaluate the current level of UAF? 

- When it comes to evaluating of the current level of AFU, Operation UNIFIER does not necessarily use a check-list. We need to combine a little bit of art and science. Generally speaking the main thing we are trying to do, wherever we are working, is set the training program, set the instructional technique, work with the Ukrainian staff in designing the training delivery so that it is NATO-compatible. So one of the key goals and one of the key metrics we have to ask ourselves: is the training currently being delivered NATO-compatible? If someone follows that training – does it produce a NATO-compatible skill? That is one of the main things. Wherever we are involved, the end goal is to make sure that training being delivered is producing NATO-compatible skills. And this question is about science, because you can just compare the training with existed NATO standards. The second question we ask ourselves is more about art than science: if the international community pulls out of that particular training center, will it continue to deliver the training independently with no assistance or advices from the international community? And that is more subjective and relies a bit on the professional military judgment of the military personnel that is there. But we definitely have to combine these two questions. We take measure every three months and we have a lot of progress. We make sure that this progress is heading toward the point where the CAF is able to leave a training center and it will continue to execute the training without any assistance.  An example of this progress is that, in about three weeks, we are handing over the Improvised Explosive Device Disposal course in Kamyanets-Podilskyi, but will remain at the training centres to provide advice, support and input into other courses. Canada had been working on that particular program since the extension of Operation UNIFIER in 2015. One of the things that we will do once we hand it over is go back after several months to critically test the Ukrainian staff and ask them how they are doing, how is the course going. And perhaps we will request permission to observe a course being delivered to see how they are doing. That will be our first opportunity to fully disengage from one of our training efforts, and that is exciting.

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Are there any things or skills that Canadian instructors can learn from Ukrainian soldiers?

We are here to assist and support the AFU and they are also sharing their experience with us; anything from their experiences in the Donbas or day-to-day lessons from being a part of such large military. The Canadian military is smaller, that has certain advantages and certain disadvantages. The AFU is larger, it has different components, it has conscription; that has advantages and disadvantages too. I think on the daily bases we have Canadian and Ukrainian soldiers who share their tips and tricks. We provide a lot of help to the AFU, but the AFU is helping us too, even at low, interpersonal levels. We have a number of Canadians, who have no real knowledge about your country, and now, when they go back home, for the rest of their lives, they will have a greater understanding of what Ukraine is and what Ukrainians are standing for. Personally, I think it is very valuable for Canadians to have this interaction. And we also have a lot of soldiers who have Ukrainian backgrounds; some of them were even born or lived in Ukraine. Today they are wear a Canadian uniform, happy to support the nation of their birth. 

Canadian military are taking part not only in trainings for AFU, but in civil events. Do you think this “soft power” diplomatic efforts are useful in addition to military?

Absolutely. Operation UNIFIER is only one small part of Canada’s support to Ukraine. Canada is engaged in the number of different ways. Through the embassy Canada is supporting things like development in humanitarian assistance, security cooperation, economics, trade and investment cooperation, etc. I have to say that Operation UNIFIER is very integrated with the Canadian approach, like supporting our embassy in celebrating Canada Day in Lviv. We are one team; there is no division between us and other elements of Canadian engagement in Ukraine. 


Lieutenant-Colonel Fraser Auld joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1990 as a Private in the Militia with the Lorne Scots in Brampton, Ontario. In 1992, he transferred to the Royal Military College in Kingston and completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical). In 1998, he re-enrolled in the Canadian Army as an Armour Officer under the Direct Entry Officer program. Lieutenant-Colonel Auld has served in a range of positions with the Dragoons, including Reconnaissance Troop Leader, Adjutant, Officer Commanding a Reconnaissance Squadron, Officer Commanding the Headquarters Squadron, and as the 56th Commanding Officer of The Regiment. His extra-Regimental postings have included tank and reconnaissance tactics instructor at the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps School, Plans Officer for Task Force Kandahar, Base Operations Officer in Petawawa, Executive Assistant to the Deputy Commanding General of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, and Director of Army Staff 2 at Canadian Army Headquarters. Lieutenant-Colonel Auld has previously deployed on four operational tours: in 2001 as a Reconnaissance Troop Leader in Bosnia-Herzegovina; in 2005 as the Second-in-Command of the Reconnaissance Squadron assigned to NATO’s Kabul Multi-National Brigade; in 2008-09 as the Tactical Plans Officer with Task Force Kandahar; and, in 2012-13 with the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Since 2018 - Commander of Joint Task Force Ukraine.

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