Georgia Train and Equip Program [GTEP] was officially launched on May 27 in Tbilisi. The opening ceremony took place in the National Military Academy. All the officials attending and opening the ceremony pointed out that the program is the logical extension of ongoing US-Georgian military partnership, which will be expanded and continued beyond the frames of this specific project.
Georgian State Minister Avtandil Jorbenadze, Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze, Foreign Affairs Minister Irakli Menagarishvili, US ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles, US military trainers' team leader Lt. Col. Robert E. Waltemeyer and other officials attended the ceremony.
The first phase of the GTEP consisted of logistical preparations for the program. The second part of the training will last for 10 weeks. 70 US military instructors will train 70 officers of the Defense Ministry and the General staff and 30 representatives of the State Security Ministry, the State Department of State Border Defense, the Interior troops, and special service of National Guard.
The third part of the GTEP will include battalion training. Four battalions of the Defense Ministry will be trained one after another during 4 months.
The first class of staff training in the frames of GTEP was held on May 27 and it mainly covered the mission of the program. The instructor warned Georgian officers that the program would take a lot of time and effort. "Long days and nights are waiting for you. Only hard-working throughout phase II will make phase III a reality", he said.
The US trainers' team, led by Lt. Col. Robert Waltemeyer, representative of the 10th Special Forces Group, seems quite enthusiastic about the new challenge. "We'd been waiting for this day since January. The program will obviously bring better cooperation between the countries, which will be the mark of future success", officer Jim Sissons, told the Civil Georgia.
The opening day of the GTEP happened to coincide with the U.S. Memorial Day. All the officials opening the ceremony pointed out that this was symbolic as Georgian soldiers are starting to fight against global threat of terrorism and thus defending their country.
"Together in the global war on terrorism we hope to promote Georgian freedom and stability and to help you to fulfill your desire to live in an open democratic society free of the threat of global terrorism", Richard Miles, US Ambassador to Georgia stated at the opening ceremony on May 27.
Ambassador Miles expressed hope that after the US trainers have returned home Georgian armed forces will remain a strong, well-organized group of professionals providing security and stability for this part of the world.
"We are here to train and equip. The most lasting thing we want to leave behind is the spirit of military professionalism and a can-do attitude", Lt. Col. Waltemeyer added on.
"We have no doubt that the implementation of this program will increase the efficiency of Georgian armed forces and will be a guarantee of peace and stability in the whole Southern Caucasus. The political decision on launching the Train and Equip Program is a vivid illustration of the fact the US is our ally", Irakli Menagharishvili, Foreign Affairs Minister of Georgia, stated.
According to Ambassador Richard Miles, the program is not related with the Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts. However, Chief of General Staff of the Georgian Army Joni Pirtskhalaishvili noted that the program "would touch upon everything that hinders Georgia's independence and territorial integrity."
Georgian officials tried to defuse Russia's concerns over the US-Georgian military cooperation and arrival of US military trainers in Georgia.
"We would appreciate all kinds of assistance Russia would provide for Georgian military although till now we were not offered anything", Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili told the reporters on May 27.
By Salome Jashi, Civil Georgia
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