Journalists were surprised to find an American fighter and medic amidst the ruins of the front lines in Ukraine. Known in her detachment as “Baby Dog,” the Utah native stood under the hot Eastern European sun donning her full military fatigue with a yellow tape attached to her left arm and shoulder, a color that represents allegiance to Ukraine.

“I wasn’t doing much at home. It was just working two jobs, pretty boring,” the 21-year-old said. Baby Dog shared she was a paramedic working two jobs back in Utah when news of the Russian assault on Ukraine broke out.

“This is a human thing. You can’t sit back and watch. It’s like sitting and watching someone kicking a dog for no reason, kicking a dog in the head. It’s crying. You don’t stop it,” she said, explaining her decision to purchase a one-way ticket to Ukraine and fight for a nation she had never been to before.

Baby Dog, whose name was not disclosed by the reporters in consideration of security risks, said she signed up through Ukraine’s International Legion of Territorial Defense. The Legion is a program launched by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration last February to allow foreign fighters to join the country’s Armed Forces as fighters.

Members of the Ukrainian International Legion of Defense of Ukraine (ILDU). Source:
Members of the Ukrainian International Legion of Defense of Ukraine (ILDU/Facebook)

The Ukrainian Government has put up a website that outlines the process of joining the country’s defense force. Despite prior claims of receiving over 20,000 applications across the globe, many of those who volunteered were never accepted.

In early March, the Ukrainian embassy disclosed that roughly half of the approximately 6,000 Americans who signed up to join the Legion had been rejected before reaching the interview segment of the application. The envoys added that around 3,000 Americans moved on to the next stages of the application, and only 100 volunteers had been accepted at that time.

A release by Berlin and New York-based Counter Extremism Project (CEP) reported that “given the available information, it is reasonable to deduce that only a fraction of those who indicated an interest in traveling to Ukraine after February 2022 actually did so.”

“Their number ranges from merely several hundreds to a few thousands,” it concluded. “This is dwarfed by tens of thousands of Ukrainian volunteers who joined units in Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Force (TDF).”

Something Out of a Movie

Baby Dog said that her experience working as a paramedic in a unit of foreign fighters makes it feel as if she is living out a James Bond film. Like the fictional secret agent, Baby Dog has gotten her share of the harsh realities of combat and death.

“I had my big medic bag on. Everybody had all their gear on. It was raining. It was miserable,” she said. “We were climbing a 45-degree hill on the road, and then out of nowhere, just this huge cluster bomb.”

The explosion pushed her off into the treeline, she recounted. Almost immediately, she started running towards a colleague that was lying on the open road.

“I got there, and then the second barrage went off,” she said. “They usually come in twos here.”

There have been several reports of Russian forces using “double-tap” tactics to increase damage and casualties against a target. The strategy involves bombing the same targets within small time intervals to harm rescue teams that come looking for survivors.

Baby Dog added her group was attacked using cluster bombs, a weapon that has submunitions or bomblets that spread out to attack a specific area. The bomblets themselves can have sized fragmentation to attack personnel and unprotected targets or larger fragments to attack light armored vehicles like APCs, trucks,s and other vehicles or aircraft. Thus, these pose a threat to civilians as they can kill them. Furthermore, non-activated charges can be lying on the ground and could serve as pseudo-landmines. The production, storage, and use of these munitions have been banned under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

“We managed to pull him (the wounded soldier) into the tree line while the cluster bomb was going off,” Baby Dog said as she recalled the devastating loss of her Dutch colleague. “By the time we got to him, he had already passed away.”

The death of her colleague was included in a Facebook post from the International Legion of Defense of Ukraine (ILDU), which also reported three other foreign fighters who lost their lives in action.

“We would like to honour the memory of our brothers in arms: Ronald Vogelaar, Michael O’Neill, Björn Benjamin Clavis, and Wilfried Blériot. No words exist to express our gratitude for their service and ultimate sacrifice. These are the unsung heroes who came here to defend the values they believed in and stand up against tyranny,” the ILDU wrote.

“Their memory will live on in the International Legion, in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and in the hearts of the Ukrainian people who will forever be indebted to the defenders who left their lives behind and chose to fight for light over darkness, for life over death. They will not be forgotten,” the Ukrainian agency added.

Baby Dog and other American fighters in Ukraine show the committed nature of Americans in the global fight for freedom and that the US will not just stand as an onlooker to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.