Austin to convene Ukraine Defense Contact Group session

Airmen from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron load cargo during a security assistance mission at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Jan. 13, 2023. The United States has committed more than $24.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russian aggression. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marco A. Gomez)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley host and convene another session of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base, Jan. 19.

“The Contact Group has been instrumental in identifying, synchronizing and ensuring delivery of the military capabilities the Ukrainians need to defend their homeland against Russian aggression,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder at a briefing Jan. 17. 

The secretary looks forward to meeting with defense leaders from the approximately 50 nations that are part of this important group dedicated to Ukraine’s self-defense, Ryder added.

Pentagon Spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder holds a press briefing, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Jan. 17, 2023. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Prior to his arrival at Ramstein, Austin will travel to Berlin, Germany to meet with the incoming German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, Ryder said. 

Ryder noted that Ukrainian troops have arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they are receiving training on the Patriot missile system. The training, which will last several months, involves 90 to 100 Ukrainians.

Separately, this week, some 600 National Guardsmen, Soldiers, Marines and airmen are en route to northern Michigan to take part in the winter portion of Exercise Northern Strike 23. The Michigan Army National Guard will host the exercise from Jan. 20 to 29, at the Northern Michigan All-Domain Warfighting Center.  

Now in its 10th year, Northern Strike allows active duty, reserve and Guard units to challenge themselves in near-arctic conditions while training to meet the objectives of the Defense Department’s Arctic Strategy, Ryder said.

U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, meets with U.S. Army leaders responsible for the collective training of Ukrainians at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, Jan. 16, 2023. The training, which began Jan. 15, is overseen by the Security Assistance Group—Ukraine, U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s 7th Army Training Command, the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine, and others, and is a continuation of U.S. and international efforts to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war. (U.S. National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Sivayavirojna)

Participants will battle wind, snow and sub-zero temperatures while using skis, snowmobiles and snowshoes to meet their training objectives, he said.  

“As the National Defense Strategy makes clear, the changing climate is creating new corridors of potential future interaction in the Arctic region. Exercises like Northern Strike help ensure our service members are ready to meet those future challenges head-on,” Ryder said. 

Later this month, Austin will travel to the Indo-Pacific region to meet with his counterparts from South Korea and the Philippines. 

“These two critical allies continue to bolster our defense partnerships. This upcoming trip is a reaffirmation of our deep commitment to working in concert with allies and partners to chart our shared vision to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Ryder said.