ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) — In the latest example of the strong ties between the U.S. and Ukraine, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein held high-level discussions with his Ukrainian counterpart, Col-Gen. Sergii Drozdov, at the Pentagon, Nov. 8.
Drozdov’s visit underscored both Ukraine’s central role in a range of regional security matters, including those connected to Russia, and the country’s evolving relationship with the United States. Drozdov’s appearance in Washington also came less than a month after the U.S. Air Force participated Clear Sky 2018, the first-ever multi-national joint military exercise held in Ukraine.
While Goldfein and Drozdov discussed a range of issues, one topic was preeminent.
“Russia’s aggression is not simply a matter for Ukraine,” Goldfein said in a public appearance, during which he and Drozdov met with Airmen and journalists.
“It is a threat to the region, to Europe, to the United States and to the stability of the international order. … Our growing partnership and security cooperation with Ukraine supports our national defense strategy and promotes regional stability, security and international trust,” Goldfein said.
Goldfein noted the recent exercise, saying it, “showcased the strong bond between the U.S. and Ukraine and how far the Ukrainian air force has come in their path towards NATO interoperability.”
Like Goldfein, Drozdov highlighted the two nations’ resilient partnership and the shared desire to promote regional stability and security.
“Together with Gen. Goldfein we had a positive discussion on points of common interest,” Drozdov said through an interpreter. “We are finding new ways to support each other so we can withstand Russian aggression.”
Ukraine has expressed a desire to join NATO, which is one reason the security collaboration with the United States is important. The success of Clear Sky 2018 is significant, as well, since one important requirement for membership is demonstrating interoperability. Goldfein said that a considerable portion of the discussion between the air chiefs focused on interoperability to ensure that “our systems and tactics and operations” mesh.
If there was any doubt about the bonds connecting the U.S. Air Force to Ukraine, the presence at the event of five Ukrainian-born U.S. Airmen provided a vivid and human face.
Each Airmen was introduced to Drozdov and Goldfein and each brought a compelling story.
Staff Sgt. Anastasia L. Rash came to the U.S. in 1996 and joined the Air Force because she “wanted to pave a path towards a better future and to serve the country” that she now calls home. Rash is currently assigned to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and is a control and communications supervisor with the 621st Contingency Response Support Squadron.
Senior Airman Lena Sanner was born in Ukraine and was adopted by an American family at age 14. She is an installation patrolman attached to the 87th Security Forces Squadron at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Airman First Class Brayden Nolte joined the Air Force in 2017. He is attached to JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst’s 87th Civil Engineer Squadron as a water fuels system maintenance apprentice. Like Sanner, he was born in Ukraine but adopted by an American family when he was 8 years old.
Airman First Class Alina Klyuchnyk Proffitt, an imagery fusion analyst with the 30th Intelligence Squadron, came to the U.S. as a refugee when she was nine. Her career goal is to become a physical therapist working with military veterans.
“It’s pretty great knowing that where I’m serving now is helping the country I was born in,” Proffitt said. “It’s a great honor being here.”
Airman First Class Konstantin Zelenskiy arrived in the U.S. from Ukraine when he was 5 years old. Zelenskiy said he joined the Air Force to give back to the country that gave him “the opportunity to chase the American dream.”