Op UNIFIER - Armoured Team
By MCpl A. Elms, LdSH(RC)
The armoured advisory team deployed to Ukraine on June 14th, two months later than we expected, and down one member. Deploying in a COVID context was a little onerous, but we’re all used to operating in uncertain circumstances and thus were able to adapt. The two weeks of quarantine at the hotel in Lviv made it hard to feel like you were deployed, but Cpl Armstrong’s unrelenting enthusiasm helped make our 4 star accommodations bearable. That time also gave the team a good opportunity to meet and build relationships with the other members of CATG and the taskforce at large.
Once we were cleared to join chalk 1 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center (IPSC), our living conditions took a hit, but we were relieved that the deployment could begin in earnest. The team picked up Capt Buckingham, and despite starting work in the middle of a Rotational Training Brigade (RTB)’s tour, we began forming a solid working relationships early with our Ukrainian OCT’s. Within the first couple weeks we were having friendly arguments about the finer points of tanking and the Capt even got to drive a T-64, while the rest of us rode up top with the Btn Cmnd. Honestly the sir did a lot better in the drivers hole than the NCMs thought he would, until he stalled it in front of the entire Ukrainian Tank Battalion.
The team had its own unique difficulties however, when we lost another member just one week after arriving at IPSC. Cpl Sean “Quarantine” Armstrong had his appendix fail him and was rushed to hospital in Lviv for emergency surgery. I was able to visit Cpl Armstrong in the hospital, and after one of the most death-defying road trips of my life (driving in Ukraine is more intuition, than rules based), it was good to see his somehow, still smiling face. You’d think he’d be depressed, but Sean is no quitter, keeping his spirits up no matter how much it annoyed me.
With another member down, we once again had to rely on the officers driving ability, and I can say this. Capt Buckingham knows tanks, he knows tactics, I’m glad he’s part of the team, but DO NOT put him behind a steering wheel. We did however, self-recover, and as the Sgt pulled away in the recovering vehicle, we made eye contact, and his look told me everything I needed to know, “I know I’m getting stuck and there’s nothing you can do about it.” And so the recovery process began anew.
As a quick aside to the comments, I KNOW, I’m going to get from Sgt Gironne after he reads the above paragraph. “I know you’re still working on my PER, I’m just reporting the facts of the situation and there is nothing YOU can do about it.” And this is why I was dubbed MCpl Andrew “I Shouldn’t Have Said That” Elms.
So the first RTB ended and that’s when we entered into a large amount of white space. Capt Phillip “Do we Have a Tow Strap” Buckingham and Sgt Max “The Hotel Wasn’t That Great” Gironne left IPSC for other tasks in Odessa and Zolochiv, once again enjoying the high life of hotels and restaurants. Myself and Cpl Armstrong, did what tankers do, and bugged maintenance with our constant offers of assistance. The maintenance team was kind and gave us work that was deemed too simple to screw up, but we did our best.
Now we enter into the next RTB, with a new American team, ready to offer our perspective to the Armed Forces Ukraine. It’s exciting to get back to the job we came here for and to set Roto 10 up for success.