Força Ukraine Update: July 27, 2023

Dear Friends – 

I know we just provided a recent update, but in case people were concerned given yesterday’s news, I wanted to assure everyone that the team is well.  If it did not make the news back in the US, yesterday we received word right as we were concluding training that Russia was planning a saturation strike – basically intending to launch more missiles than the Ukrainian defenses could effectively counter.  These missiles were launched from submarines in the Caspian Sea, as well as from aircraft.  It usually takes about one hour from time of launch for the missiles to enter Ukrainian air space.  

Our team, along with some other trainers, evacuated our facility along with all other personnel.  We put on our ballistic protection and spent the next two and a half hours taking shelter in a trench deep in the woods.  At the two hour mark, we started to hear thunder and then saw lightning close behind it.  We decided to move out of the trees and retrieve vehicles to move to open space – giving us less shelter from potential missiles, but addressing the likely more pressing issue of lightning.  Not long after that move, the air raid ended.  While we were ultimately not near any of the impacted areas, civilian centers were once again hit.  These are towns and cities where we have been before, where our teammates have friends and families.  

Upon our return to camp, we had a few minutes before the rain storm arrived in earnest.  The structural integrity of our tent was tested, and came up lacking.  While Emily was trying to hold the door flaps from collapsing inward (and getting drenched in the process), the entire side wall of the tent imploded with the force of the wind, cascading rain into the tent, all of us, and all our stuff.  Thanks to some quick thinking on the part of the team, we were able to get blankets hung into the hole, and then literally held the tent down as we once again evacuated.  After several more hours, we found a second home, but the damage across the camp was extensive – several collapsed or partially collapsed tents, trees down, and our training tent thrown over a 12 foot barrier wall with some of our equipment in it.  The camp lost all power and water, which has somehow already all been restored.  In the end, and most importantly, no one on the camp was injured, we were able to recover most of our equipment, and the team is in good spirits.  

Your team – the one made possible by your contributions, is remarkable.  They took last night in stride and woke up this morning to continue to provide high quality and highly demanded medical training.  They are an incredible group of professionals.  Today I spoke to a medic about his background – he is a good medic, humble, thoughtful, willing to learn.  He told me that before the war, he built garden gnomes, that his wife and child are in Estonia and he has not seen them in months.  That is the reality of this place.  

As always, we are so grateful for this experience, humbled by the men and women we work with, and remain safe,  As this last week in country winds down, we are all reflective of what this time has meant – and cognizant of the fact that many we have trained may not see the end of this war.  It motivates us to do our best for them – to give them every chance to save themselves or another.  It is with your help that it is possible at all.

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