Army National Guard Sergeant Samuel Amador Returns Home to Coral Springs After Ukraine Deployment
By Agrippina Fadel
“We wanted to stay and help in any way we could,” said Coral Springs resident Samuel Amador about his unit evacuating from Ukraine in February, just days before Russian forces invaded the country.
First Sergeant of the Florida Army National Guard and Maneuver Advisor Amador was deployed to Ukraine in November 2021 as part of the Task Force Gator Infantry Brigade Combat Team, training, advising, and mentoring local armed forces.
The troops were a part of the International Peacekeeping and Security Center of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, which trains, equips, and offers assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
“Our job there was to advise Ukrainian Forces all the way until we had to evacuate a week before the invasion. It was hard to leave. Being in the military, we wanted to help,” he said.
U.S. European Command repositioned Amador’s team to Grafenwoehr, Germany, where they waited on the standby mission until getting the news that the unit would be training the Ukrainians once again, this time in the Baltic countries.
“For the following two months, I was tasked with training them on the use of the M777 Howitzer cannons that we were shipping over,” he said. Since the start of the Russian invasion, the United States has provided Ukraine with over a hundred such cannons and rounds of ammunition.
Amador said that while the U.S. troops had seen the writing on the wall, the Ukrainians he spoke to and trained “did not expect the invasion.”
“Even when the Russians started amassing their troops for the “training exercise” [before the attack on February 24], the Ukrainians we talked to were still saying, “that’s normal.” They weren’t scared and were used to the military activity after years of Russian Army’s presence,” he explained.
Amador said he and his team were happy to start training the Ukrainians again, who were “eager to learn and get as much information as they could about the equipment and tactics they knew they would use in the next few days to actually defend their homes and families.”
“We could clearly see that the Ukrainians were giving a good fight to the Russians, which the latter were not expecting,” he said, adding that the training certainly helped, but when people are fighting for their land and loved ones, they are “definitely going to outperform somebody who is just fighting for patriotism.”
While stationed at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center in the Lviv region of western Ukraine, Amador saw some neighboring cities, including the capital, Kyiv, before the Russians attacked them.
“The Ukrainian cities were charming, the people there were great, and the food was delicious,” he said, adding that after traveling all over Western Europe in the past, he was impressed with the culture and architecture of Ukraine: “It was a really beautiful country.”
Amador added that the Ukrainians were very friendly towards the personnel of JMTG-U. “We were there during the holidays, and it was great to experience how they celebrate Christmas and New Year and share our traditions,” he said.
A Summer Wind resident, Amador came with his family from Puerto Rico when he was seven. A Coconut Creek High School graduate, he reenlisted in the Army after four years of active duty in the Marine Corps and has been in the military for over 20 years.
Amador is married and has two daughters. When he returned home this September, his wife Carly shared a video of him surprising his daughters at kindergarten.
During his deployment, Amador trained over 150 Ukrainians using military equipment, medical aid, combat training, and leadership tactics. “It was a very rewarding experience. We had built relationships and bonds with the Ukrainians,” he said.
- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master’s in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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