PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (WFLA) – In November members of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed to the Ukraine to help train and advise the Ukrainian Armed Forces to improve their defense capabilities.
About 150 members of the Pinellas Park based unit are currently in Ukraine. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden briefed a bipartisan group of senators to discuss Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders.
Greg Celestan is the CEO of Celestar and a West Point graduate who served as an Army intelligence officer.
“I was a Russian foreign area officer. I was trained in the Russian language and the former Soviet Union was my area of expertise,” said Celestan who also spent time in Ukraine.
He believes it’s an area that is at a turning point.
“The challenge for the United States is we want to maintain some influence, but obviously Russia sees that as their sphere of influence. For Putin, he has an intense interest in keeping Ukraine tied to Russia and he definitely does not want to see Ukraine join NATO,” said Celestan.
He says the National Guard Unit from Florida is in a particularly dangerous position.
“You’ve got Russian troops, obviously massed on the border of the Ukraine. You’ve got Ukraine forces there. The U.S. has some forces in Poland and some of the countries and NATO based countries, so there is a high probability if any type of conflict occurs, you could have NATO and Russian forces engaged,” said Celestan.
The 53rd combat infantry brigade is currently working with Ukrainian forces to improve their defense capabilities in an advisory capacity only.