The Pentagon was reportedly aware of impending developments in Ukraine, including US troops not speaking Ukrainian, according to sources.
“We have no Ukrainian-specific linguists. We don’t train Ukrainian,” said Staff Sgt. Bobby Brown, airborne language analyst program manager to the Air Force Times during a visit to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
Military linguists on board Air Force spy aircraft had been monitoring eastern Europe for months as adjacent Russian forces prepared to attack neighboring Ukraine in February. The United States had expressed its support for the second-largest nation in Europe and committed more than $1 billion in military aid.
The Air Force scrambled to recruit personnel who could pass the Pentagon’s Ukrainian language competence test as the predicament around Ukraine’s borders — and subsequently, inside them — became more perilous.
Some who had connections to the nation through family already spoke Ukrainian, while others who had a zeal for learning did. Because the Russian and English alphabets, grammar, and vocabulary are similar, aircrew who learn Russian may also be capable of helping.
According to Service Spokesperson Laura McAndrews, the Air Force can monitor linguistic competence in the military personnel systems. As a result, it can immediately spot airmen and guardians with the required language abilities.
About a dozen languages, including French, Spanish, Indonesian, Farsi, Russian, Tagalog, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Pashto, and four dialects of Arabic, are taught to service members at the Defense Language Institute of the Pentagon.
“The Department of the Air Force can track language capabilities in the military personnel systems and can quickly identify airmen/guardians with the required language skills, including Ukrainian,” McAndrews said.
These aircrews focus on one of a handful of essential languages at once, such as Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, or Arabic.
Invoking operational security, McAndrews refused to specify how many Ukrainian and Russian linguists supported US and NATO operations connected to the four-month-old struggle.
The intelligence is shared with nations collaborating with the United States after being funneled through agencies like the National Security Agency. For example, in the Black Sea, Ukrainian troops could take down a critical battleship and kill several Russian generals because of their cooperation.
Maj. Eric Armstrong, an RC-135 Rivet Joint pilot currently the deputy director of the base reconstruction effort at Offutt Air Force Base, said they have their “own slang” when conversing with each other that is “not conversational language.”
“They have to understand the mission’s military language … so they can grasp, ‘This type of person is probably talking to this type of person in this role about these things,’” he said.
Armstrong added that because of this, they could inform them if there is a threat to their partners.
“If it is a threat to our partners, we’re able to tell them that threat. We may not have to give them the whole ‘who, what, why, and where,’ but we can tell them that, ‘Hey, there’s something dangerous, and watch out.”
The training of foreign forces can also be aided by military personnel who are fluent in other languages, the report said.
For instance, at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School, a US institution, Air Force Capt Jordan Garcia filled in as an “interpreter” for Ukrainian students. This year, the Navy began a program in Mississippi to educate foreign special operations forces in tactics and strategy.
Garcia was a part of the Air Force’s Language-Enabled Airman Program and fluent in Russian and Ukrainian. The initiative includes online courses for Space Force guardians and active-duty military airmen to learn a foreign language.
According to McAndrews, the Air Force has launched an initiative at the institute called “Linguist Next” to advance linguistic proficiency. The agency anticipates that more periodic proficiency examinations will enable the information to “stick” more rapidly than it would.
“Language equities across the Air Force are in high demand and are a significant and costly resource to create and maintain,” she said.
“The Air Force works closely with the Department of Defense through a multitude of working groups to strike the right balance of capability to meet the needs of our nation and the service,” she added.
As of July 4, 11,152 civilian casualties were reported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including 4,889 deaths and 6,263 injuries. This comprised:
An aggregate of 4,889 fatalities (1,862 men, 1,264 women, 137 girls, and 157 boys, as well as 41 children and 1,428 adults whose sex remains unidentified)
6,263 people were hurt in total (1,246 men, 881 women, 138 girls, and 193 boys, as well as 190 children and 3,615 adults whose sex is yet unknown)
6,252 casualties in the districts of Donetsk and Luhansk (2,844 killed and 3,408 injured)
5,242 fatalities in government-controlled jurisdiction (2,643 killed and 2,599 injured)
1,010 casualties on the ground under Russian military control and allied armed groups (201 killed and 809 wounded)
4,900 people lost their lives in other parts of Ukraine (including the city of Kyiv and the regions of Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Rivne, Vinnytsia, Ternopil, and Zhytomyr), which were under government control
Due to delays in receiving information from some areas where violent confrontations have occurred and several reports still awaiting confirmation, OHCHR estimates that the actual numbers are far more significant.