Greater Victoria-based diver helped boost Ukraine’s military capability – Saanich News

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The training given by a Colwood-based military diver five years ago as part of Operation UNIFIER – the Canadian Armed Forces mission to improve the readiness of the Ukrainian army – could play a role in the current conflict facing the European nation.

Operation UNIFIER began in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and saw 200 Canadian troops sent in for training.

That support last month extended to 260 troops and the provision of surveillance, personal protective and porterage equipment, as Russia rallies tens of thousands of troops to its borders with Ukraine.

Non-commissioned officer Ryan Burrell was part of the fifth rotation of Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine in 2017. For six months, he and a handful of colleagues led mine clearance diving training for the country’s armed forces.

Stationed in a town in western Ukraine, he taught explosives recognition and disposal. Canada’s clearance divers are responsible for handling explosives underwater, servicing military diving equipment and repairing battle damage to ships’ propellers or other light equipment, Burrell said. .

“We were there in a capacity building aspect of the security forces,” he said, noting that the aim was to raise the skills of the Ukrainian force in handling explosives to the level of the NATO standard.

In Burrell’s experience, Ukrainians valued the Western alliance. “Despite all the interactions I’ve had with the military and the civilians there, they love the Canadians,” he said.

Burrell, now a 20-year veteran, graduated as a clearance diver in 2009 after training at CFB Esquimalt and has been stationed in the area ever since. The position saw him involved in the recovery of lost Canadian artefacts (such as the cannon of British explorer Sir John Franklin’s HMS Erebus, lost during the failed 1845 expedition through the Northwest Passage), as well as in the training of new CAF divers.

– With files from The Canadian Press.

Canadian Military MissionsCFB EsquimaltUkraine

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