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Ukrainians Head Home After Completing Iraq Mission

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

KUT, Iraq, Dec. 19, 2005 – Multinational Division Central South bid farewell to troops from Ukraine, one of the unit's mainstay nationalities, during a ceremony today at Camp Delta here.

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Ukrainian soldiers pass in review at the end of a farewell ceremony at Kut, Iraq, Dec. 19. More than 5,000 Ukrainians have served as part of Multinational Division Central South since the unit formed in 2003. Photo by Jim Garamone

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Polish Army Maj. Gen. Piotr Czerwinski said the Ukrainian contingent has done excellent work in the area and helped provide stability to the region and training to Iraqi troops, who now pick up the mission.

Ukraine will not end its affiliation with the coalition, Multinational Force Iraq officials said, but large troop deployments will end.

Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Anatoliy Pushniakov, a staff officer with the division, said more than 5,000 Ukrainian soldiers have deployed to Iraq since the operation began in spring 2003. Ukrainian soldiers generally spend six months in Iraq, although some have asked to stay longer. A total of 850 Ukrainian soldiers of the 81st Tactical Group will fly home in the next few days.

"I wish our soldiers a safe trip and to celebrate the New Year with their families back home," Pushniakov said during the ceremony.

The unit's commander, Maj. Gen. Evgeniy Goroshnikov, said he was proud of the way the unit acted and reacted to changing times in Iraq. "We have been here for two years, and in this time we have learned much about peacekeeping and we have made friends from many different countries," he said through an interpreter.

The Ukrainian contingent lost several soldiers during the militant "Mahdi Army" uprising in April 2004 and again in disturbances in October 2004. Others have been killed or injured in noncombat accidents.

Goroshnikov wished local Iraqi officials well and praised the Iraqi 8th Division for its accomplishments. That division eventually will take over responsibility for the multinational division's mission area, officials said.

With the Ukrainian contingent's departure and the Bulgarians before, the Multinational Division is down to 11 nationalities. Twenty-three nationalities comprised the unit when it began.

Czerwinski, the Polish general, said commanding such a multicultural division has been a challenge and has taught him the importance of communication. With units coming from Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Latin America, he found that even deciding on which language to use was a challenge. The division sends all operations orders in English, but on the battlefield troops use anything from Spanish to Russian to Polish.

Czerwinski said the close working relationship among all nationalities in the division has helped build understanding on a national level, and he is proud of his Ukrainian allies for the role they played. "For Iraq, for Iraqi people for the multinational division, this is a big success," he said. "More people should know about this."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageIraqi and Multinational Division Central South leaders discuss the current situation following a farewell ceremony for Ukrainian soldiers at Kut, Iraq, Dec. 19. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe Polish division commander, Maj. Gen. Piotr Czerwinski, presented these plaques to his departing Ukrainian allies during a farewell ceremony at Kut, Iraq, Dec. 19. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imagePolish Maj. Gen. Piotr Czerwinski, commander of Multinational Division Central South, presents a plaque to a Ukrainian officer during a farewell ceremony at Kut, Iraq, Dec. 19. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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