U.S. Special Operations Forces trained alongside Ukrainian special operators, as well as conventional U.S. and Ukrainian Navy assets, in an 11 day exercise that concluded on Friday. The operation, dubbed “Sea Breeze 2017,” is an annual event, but has drawn more attention since Russia’s military annexation of Crimea in 2014. This year also marks the first time American SOF have participated in the exercise.
U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director, explained that Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set, allowing their Ukrainian counterparts a rare opportunity to hone their skills alongside the best special operators in the world.
“With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” Villegas said.
Naval special warfare units brought a number of new elements to the annual exercises, including “rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available,” the Department of Defense stated in a release. Villegas noted, however, that capability is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. Training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives in an increasingly complex environment requires a great deal of cooperation.