Ukraine’s Armed Forces have reformatted the reserve 61st Motorized Infantry Brigade into their first specific light infantry brigade created for warfare on forested and swampy terrain.
The new unit, now called the 61st Jager Infantry Brigade, was formally recognized as a full-fledged active combat formation in an April 25 joint decree of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces. The unit’s title comes from the German word “Jäger” (literally “hunter”), a term that in the German military tradition usually applies to light and highly-mobile rifled infantry units well-suited for scouting and engaging the enemy in small squads.
The unit’s primary mission is to bolster the defenses of the country’s northern border, according to a May 12 post on the unit’s newly created Facebook page. This likely indicates the swampy and forested region of Polisia, which roughly stretches from the city of Lutsk (400 kilometers to the west of Kyiv) to the eastern city of Sumy (333 kilometers to the east of Kyiv) along the Ukrainian border with Belarus and Russia.
The new brigade will only include contract personnel with combat experience or with “civilian activities related to the brigade’s specific nature — hunters, rangers, foresters,” the brigade stated in the Facebook post.
“Of top priority are both actively serving and retired servicepeople of (Ukraine’s) Special Operations Forces and military intelligence,” the brigade added.
The 61st Brigade was initially formed in 2015 as a strategic reserve unit, part of Ukraine’s 4th Army Corps, which included 5 more reserve armored and mechanized brigades. As an active combat unit, the 61st Jagers will reportedly be based in the city of Novohrad-Volynskiy in Zhytomyr Oblast, some 200 kilometers east of Kyiv.
Similar light infantry units specialized for assault and defense operations in rugged terrain can be found in numerous militaries. Their role in warfare is somewhat similar to that of U.S. Army Rangers. As special operations troops, jager formations are particularly well known in Northern Europe, especially in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
According to Lieutenant General Sergiy Bessarab, the deputy chief of Ukraine’s General Staff, since Russia invaded Donbas in spring 2014, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have created as many as 29 new combat brigades and regiments.
In all, the Ukrainian military has nearly 250,000 active service personnel, the upper limit under current legislation. As of late 2018, the army’s operative reserve also includes up to 200,000 reserve troops, according to the General Staff.
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