Several hundred volunteers willing to fight Russians alongside Ukrainian forces already have arrived in that embattled nation, according to a government official there.
A defense official at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, D.C., told Military Times that they have already received more than 3,000 applications for U.S. citizens wanting to fight. That figure, he said, includes many military veterans. He could not say how many.
Ukrainian officials spoke to Military Times on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans.
On Sunday, Military Times reported that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy created “The International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.”
It is a new effort, the Ukrainian official told Military Times, to help bolster the fight.
The Russian advance on Kyiv is stalled at the moment, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Thursday morning, in part because of a stiff Ukrainian resistance. Military Times also reported that Ukrainian aircraft and other assets have struck a 40-mile long convoy about 25 kilometers north of Kyiv.
A number of veterans have reached out to Military Times, either saying they are planning to travel to Ukraine to fight or want to. Ukraine’s embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to questions about how many U.S. veterans had signed up.
The call for volunteers has been met with enthusiasm on several online forums like Reddit and Discord.
One Reddit page for those volunteering to fight for Ukraine has more than 32,000 members according to the site.
While the forums do have people claiming to be combat veterans, many seem to be young people who have never seen combat or even picked up a gun, heading to Ukraine in search of adventure in the name of a good cause.
Notify the U.S. State Department first, he urges. And he offers a note of caution to those who want to fight.
“You aren’t Rambo,” he writes in SANDBOXX.
“If you are determined to go, be professional, responsible, and realistic in your expectations,” Frumentarius writes. “Follow the Ukrainian government’s advice about how to officially register, and do not go there telling them where and how you want to participate in the fighting.
“They will place you in whatever capacity they need you, and wherever they need you most. You are not Rambo, there to single-handedly slay Russians and post your selfies. You will be part of a military machine that is under extreme stress, and you need to seamlessly integrate into that system to be an effective part of it.”
No volunteers will be allowed to bring their own weapons, said the Ukrainian official. Those who fight will be issued at least rifles, he added. He would not comment on whether they will be issued other types of weapons.
Ukraine officials stress to Military Times that they are looking for foreign volunteers with combat experience who require little training before being armed and sent to the front line.
The instructions for joining the legion require “documents confirming military service or work with law enforcement agencies and participation in combat.”
“We are asking for trained people to come,” said the official in Ukraine. “We don’t have time for training.”
The defense official in Washington said there are opportunities for help beyond combat.
“We do not want to send people who are not trained, but at the same time, people can provide medical help. Or some can analyze mass media if they do not wish to fight.”
The defense official, however, stressed all these efforts are voluntary.
“We are not hiring anyone,” he said.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.