Interview

Mykhailo Zabrodskyi: “It is easy to form ideology for the armed forces of Ukraine, when there is a clear ideology in the country”

The Commander of the Air Assault Troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine about new requirements for paratroopers, Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian brigade and whether the Air Assault Troops like their maroon berets.

The Commander of the Air Assault Troops of the Military Forces of Ukraine Mykhailo Zabrodskyi has already become a part of history as the officer who commanded the 95th brigade, which in 2014 made the longest raid in the world military history: 470 kilometers in total, and 170 of them were in enemy’s rear. The General-Lieutenant was awarded with a rank of the Hero of Ukraine, he was the Commander of Anti-terrorist Operation (ATO) and now he introduces “Code of Honor of Paratrooper” in the Air Assault Troops.
In his interview to Armia FM Zabrodskyi spoke about new requirements for paratroopers, Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian brigade and whether the Air Assault Troops like their maroon berets.

– You have been at war from the very beginning, you were the Commander of Anti-terrorist Operation. Can you say that your attitude to this war has changed after these five years?

– My attitude towards the military actions in the south of the country has not changed. I have no doubts that the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other defence forces of our state are doing the right thing. But what is happening in Donbas now has changed to more technological process with significant information component, causing involvement of greater human, technical and financial resources. These events have become a proving ground for testing of new forms and methods of conducting of military operations, a place for testing of modern systems of armament including high-tech armament. At the same time, the war in the east remains serious, harsh, cruel and bloody, and also a serious job for many men and women of our Armed Forces.

– In one of your interviews you said that Ukraine is taking an exam now to be an independent and a strong state. Do you still think the same?

– Yes, I do. However, the exam has been in progress for too long and we have not received answers to all questions yet.

– What are the requirements for paratroopers? Have they changed since 2014?

– The requirements for those who want to serve now in the Air Assault Forces have changed greatly. These changes are connected first of all with the fact that now we have more time and opportunities for training of various military professions. During mobilisations in 2014-2015 we had to make training periods quite short even though there were enough resources. It was impossible to provide people with the knowledge necessary during the war due to the lack of time. Now we have changed this approach radically. The 199th training centre for the Air Assault Forces works almost at full capacity, we interact with the training centres of other types of troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Due to the fact that small part of the personnel attend such trainings, it is possible to pay attention to almost every serviceman individually. New possibilities for trainings have appeared and professional requirements for those participating in such trainings have been developed. We try to take into account the best practices of these five years. And especially those very cruel and bloody lessons we learned during this war in the east of our country.

– What are the key issues of training of paratroopers?

– We think that every training always has its own peculiarities. If present reality requires some special skills, for example ability to operate in inhabited places, and there is a possibility to practice these skills, we will certainly do it. As for the training standards and training content, we use an old and checked principle – to train things useful during the war. The difference is that previously we worked with people who had already served in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and had certain understanding of soldier’s skills. Now the majority of people we train are reservists or those coming after secondary school graduation and having no idea about military service. Maybe now we should pay more attention to broadening of military horizons, so that people could understand how the military machine works in general. So, it’s time to transfer the emphasis from purely professional skills to the process of bringing up and rising of people’s interest to their future profession.

– How are the Air Assault Forces of Ukraine equipped?

– I will start with paratroop-parachute systems, which is a vital issue. Decision to supply the Air Assault Forces with paratroop-parachute systems, which are in use by the armed forces of the USA and a number of the leading countries of the world (not all armies have them due to their value. – Interviewer) was made taking into account technological aspects, quality and the resource of this equipment, which cannot be compared with parachute systems, which have been in use in Ukraine (parachute systems made in the Soviet Union and in Ukraine before the war are meant. – Interviewer). This decision is both strategic and political, because it allows to leave behind the Soviet models and Soviet approach. Unfortunately, production of parachute systems, which were used or are still used by highly mobile paratroop, air mobile and air assault troops is situated in the temporarily occupied territory. Now both producers and suppliers cannot offer anything new of the same quality, and even if they do, usually it is a replica of the old models. Foreign suppliers from People’s Republic of China and Poland offer the models designed in the Soviet Union but produced by their manufacturers. It is a vicious circle, which we decided to break two years ago. So, appropriate solutions were made, and now the only sensitive issue is production stability and supply of these parachute systems according to the schedule. The first responses, which we have been receiving from the troops are very positive. We are satisfied with almost all indicators of these systems.

– What is the difference between new and old parachute systems?

– As for the technique used in the Soviet Union, it was a doctrine of mass landing. Parachute system was controlled, had certain characteristics which ensured mass parachuting and landing of paratroopers to landing ground with minimum window influence. In the American army starting from the XXth century there was a doctrine of mass night landing. So, their parachutes were not domed but square, more stable and not controlled, had minimal risk of swing, a higher speed of lowering, and almost 100% guarantee of landing to the ground of their unit. Everything what happens with paratrooper after landing is caused by what has happened with him in the air. If a unit landed densely and compactly, spent minimum time for gathering and immediately started to fulfill the task, it would definitely contribute to the successful operation. American parachute systems have a bit different approach due to lack of such restrictions. But it is an economic criterion for us as there are no additional purchases and expenses.

– How long will our paratroopers learn how to use new paratroop-parachute systems?

– Preliminary training lasts two weeks. If a person has a previous experience of parachute jumping, then re-training will take a few days. It makes the training period shorter as there is no need to learn how to pack the parachute, because it is a responsibility of a special unit. Range of the necessary skills reduces and becomes more accessible.

– What other innovations of the Air Assault Troops of Ukraine can you mention?

– I can mention unmanned-aviation complexes, which the armed forces receive; some equipment and armament for reconnaissance; planned delivery of communication systems; sniper rifles; new models of uniforms; technical means of food service; technical means of engineering support…It is a very long list.

– It’s been two years since paratroopers started wearing maroon berets. Are there any new traditions connected with it?

– We keep an old tradition to give maroon beret after making of parachute jumps or after finishing of the training in the training centre. There is a new tradition of taking paratrooper’s oaths. “Code of Honour of Paratrooper” has been prepared and introduced. It includes rules of behaviour for different situations – from performing of combat tasks to everyday activities. It will certainly be individually adapted by every paratrooper. It is not obligatory to take this oath. But while preparing it, we tried to summarise the best practices of armies of the leading countries of the world and also our own military history.

– Is it easier to introduce new ideology to young people who come to you now?

– In general, yes. But I would like to stress that it is very easy to form ideology for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, when there is a clear ideology in the country.

– This year the Air Assault Forces of Ukraine has formed a Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian brigade. How can this experience be useful for the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces?

– It will certainly be very useful. First of all because the headquarters and the command of the Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian brigade are the busiest units. All our servicemen served in the headquarters, which means they had experience of working with representatives of armies-NATO members, practising of foreign languages, mastering of headquarters procedures. We tried to do everything to use people coming from the previous rotation the most effectively, but unfortunately, not all of them decided to continue serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. However, the majority decided to stay and I have no doubts that their skills and experience will be of a great value for the Air Assault Forces.

– Do representatives of foreign military units learn from you how to conduct combat operations?

– All those who came to us had a very high proficiency in Military Pedagogy. But at the same time being here and training us, they are trying to learn from us. It includes exchange of opinions, communication in informal atmosphere, discussions about standard and non-standard approaches, which help to do our job the best way. It is a non-stop process which lasts for five years already. Every training is always interaction. If a trainer says: “I am a teacher and know everything and you are a student and know nothing”, it looks more like mentoring. Exchange of opinions is very important in military and any other training, especially when sometimes students have greater practical experience than their trainers.

– Do women serve in the Air Assault Forces of Ukraine?

– There are some legislative restrictions concerning serving of women in the Air Assault Forces of Ukraine. First of all it is connected with specific operations in which the units of the Air Assault Forces participate and necessity to fulfill tasks beyond the front line – territory controlled by the enemy. We plan to continue having certain restrictions in future.

– Tell us please about the experimental unit. When have you started this experiment?

– The word “experiment” is probably not very appropriate for this military base. New approaches being tested there now suppose well-arranged engagement into combat tasks, particularly as part of the Joint Forces. Separate reconnaissance battalion of the Air Assault Forces has a small preference, because battalion is not a brigade, and we can supervise the training process of certain groups, which fulfill tasks in the interests of different brigades. For example, when one brigade was in the right flank of the Joint Forces Operation, we managed to organise two rotations of soldiers of this reconnaissance unit.

– There is an information that Ahtem Seitablaiev is going to make a feature film based on real story – a famous raid under your command. What do you think about it?

– We have a very positive feeling about the film adaptation of the events happened in 2014. We are ready for cooperation if there is a need in some consultations or clarifications. I am not an artistic person and cannot say whether this film should be a drama or not. But as a human being, I would use a complex notion “drama” to describe these events. But even in drama one can find something positive, which can lead, show the way and remember those who had not come back from this raid.

– And the last question – if the Russian Federation makes a full-scale attack, are paratroopers ready for it?

– Those who serve in the Air Assault Forces and those being in reserve are ready to fulfill any task of their commander. As for the tactic, let it be a surprise for our enemy.

Photos from the open sources.

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