Major on a mission with purpose

A former Royal Australian Air Force Cadet is heading up an expanded ADF contingent training Ukrainian personnel in the UK to fight off the illegal Russian invasion.

CAPTIONMajor Alan Bretherton in the UK. Story by Lieutenant Commander John Thompson.

Now a member of the Australian Army, Major Alan Bretherton arrived in the UK early last month with a company headquarters and four training teams made up of more than 80 soldiers.

They are delivering training to about 400 Ukrainians as part of Operation Kudu and an international effort to help strengthen warfighting skills and capabilities.

“This deployment is one of the highlights of my life,” Major Bretherton said.

“Although there are challenges, including being away from family, this mission has purpose – standing with Ukraine and helping them defend their homeland.”

As the son of a Royal New Zealand Air Force officer, Major Bretherton moved around a lot growing up.

“I have never lived in one place for more than a few years,” he said.

After joining the ADF 15 years ago, Major Bretherton said his dad was actually more surprised in his decision to join the Army, than he was with him joining the ADF over the NZ Defence Force.

“I enjoy the field life more,” he said.

Operation Kudu has been running since January 2023, supporting the UK-led multinational mission, Operation Interflex. Australia has so far trained about 2000 Ukrainians, with the overall operation having trained more than 30,000.

The age of the Ukrainian personnel varies, with the youngest in their early 20s and the oldest in their early 70s.

“Our guys and girls are generally much younger than those they are training, but it’s inspiring to work with these soldiers, most of whom would never have considered entering the military – particularly as a 72-year-old,” Major Bretherton said.

Head of Australian Defence Staff in London Brigadier Grant Mason said Australia was now delivering two critical training courses.

“We are continuing to deliver a 10-week course for new personnel, alongside a new five-week junior leader training program focusing on section commanders, platoon commanders, and platoon and company sergeants,” Brigadier Mason said.

Major Bretherton said the courses involved a strong focus on combat first-aid training, dealing with explosives and how to fight in trenches and urban areas.

“Morale is high – our soldiers are vested in the mission and performing to an exceptional standard, and the Ukrainians really appreciate that commitment,” he said.

“We’re also learning from them, particularly around the use of drones and trench fighting, given many have come with frontline experience. That has also enabled us to continue to refine and improve the training we deliver.”

Brigadier Mason said the Australian soldiers were playing an important role in the fight against Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“I’m proud of what our men and women are doing here. Their efforts deliver real-world outcomes by helping the Armed Forces of Ukraine generate the additional capacity they need to defend their homeland,” Brigadier Mason said.

CAPTIONMajor Alan Bretherton leading the training of Ukrainians.


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