The Ukrainian Special Operations Command conducted its annual UKRSOF Tournament 2020. This special operations competition took place at the UKRSOF training center. A number of Ukrainian SOF teams competed for the title of the best SOTU. Competitors had the opportunity to refine their tactical skills, as well as increase interoperability, cooperation, and trust with other SOF units.
The event lasted for five intensive days – leaving no room for error or time for sleep for the participants. For 120 hours the best UKRSOF teams were tested for their endurance, resolve, morale, and professional excellence.
There were 11 stages of the competition that included various obstacles and challenging conditions on the ground and in the air. The teams competed in extreme heat and cold in a variety of environments. There was 90 kilometers of movement while carrying equipment that incorporated reconnaissance, special mission, and direct action tasks.
The United States Special Operations Command – Europe (SOCEUR) has been assisting the Ukraine special operations forces with equipment and training for several years. SOCEUR has been advising on the force structure and development of the Ukrainian SOCOM’s institutional capacities. In addition, joint training operations are held to improve coordination and interoperability. For instance, in February 2020 the US Special Operations Command Europe provided a tent-compound as part of a US assistance initiative. The compound was set up in Berdychiv – the location of the 142nd Training Center of Ukraine special operations forces.
The Ukraine Special Operations Forces Command consists of special forces, psychological operations, maritime, aviation, and support units. Ukraine inherited special operations units from the Soviet-era but these units have slowly transitioned to a NATO-type doctrine and training criteria. The Ukrainians have been sending their special operators to training events and schools in other countries to improve their tactics, techniques, and procedures.
In 2019 elements of the Ukraine special operations became the first-ever non-NATO unit to pass NATO’s SOF certification process. Selected Ukrainian SOF units are now eligible to deploy and operate with the NATO Response Force (NRF). Ukrainian SOF units train with U.S. and NATO SOF units on a periodic basis. NATO SOF units are assisting Ukraine in the development of its special operations forces.
One important training event is Exercise Sea Breeze – this multinational maritime exercise is held in the Black Sea region. U.S. special operations units such as the 352nd Special Operations Wing and Naval Special Warfare units usually participate in the exercise. In addition to Sea Breeze, Ukraine SOF participate in other NATO training events and exercises throughout Europe.
Ukraine is under constant threat from its eastern neighbor – Russia. The professionalism of Ukraine’s special operations forces is a deterrent factor to be considered by Russia in any future aggressive moves in the region.
Photo: Provided by PA Ukraine Special Operations Command, July 2020. Members of a Ukraine special operations team fastrope from a helicopter.