A senior non-commissioned officer from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment has been training Ukrainian soldiers as part of a British operation to provide military support following Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
Luke Willis, a Warrant Officer Class 1, has been working as part of a UK team to train Ukrainian soldiers in techniques for close combat in urban environments.
The UK-led training programme, known as Operation Interflex, is for Ukrainian recruits with little to no previous military experience and will teach them the skills required to survive and be effective in frontline combat.
It has been strengthened by contributions from nine international partner forces from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.
The UK training course is delivered over a minimum of a five-week period and includes weapons handling, Law of Armed Conflict awareness, patrol tactics, urban and trench warfare and battlefield first aid.
So far, the UK has trained more than 25,000 Ukrainian personnel in the UK under the training programme announced in June 2022.
The RG as a whole has not been involved in Operation Interflex to date but WO1 Willis received a personal invitation from the Lethality Wing in the Infantry Battle School at Brecon to instruct as a guest during an Urban Operation Instructor Course, which was delivered recently at an undisclosed location in the UK.
“This is due to the RG’s reputation of having expertise in the close quarter battle environment and specifically the subterranean environment,” WO1 Willis told the Chronicle, in an emailed response to questions.
“This specific course was aligned to Ukrainian Forces as part of Operation Orbital. During this course we instructed 40 students.”
“On this particular occasion it was very much focused on urban operations which is relevant to the conflict they are currently fighting in.”
So far, only WO1 Willis has been involved in training Ukrainian troops but there may be a wider involvement of the RG in future activities, although this has not been confirmed as yet.
The deployment underlines the RG’s place within the UK Armed Forces and the skills of its small but highly-trained units and personnel.
“The Regiment stands toe to toe against any other infantry regiment,” WO1 Willis said.
“All the soldiers are prepared to deploy and welcome the challenge.”
“The fact that the RG are considered for this type of deployment further acknowledges our professionalism and reliance.”
“At a time when UK are looking at how units can be developed to be more agile and versatile, the Regiment can boast that they are well prepared in this respect.”
“The RG will always look at opportunities to allow them to contribute to wider UK defence outputs whether its operations or sending training teams abroad to support other allied partners.”
UK troops have also been deployed in Estonia, training alongside thousands of personnel from other NATO countries.
RG soldiers have in the past deployed on every major operational campaign supported by UK defence since its formation, including Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
“Therefore, it is no surprise that we once again send soldiers to support the ongoing efforts in patrolling the Estonia border with Russia,” WO1 Willis said.
“All members of the regiment take pride in doing their duty so deploying on operations is the pinnacle of any soldier’s profession.”
“It is their opportunity to put in to practise in a real time environment all the skills they learn as infantry soldiers.”