Two U.S. generals will watch a military parade that will be held in Yerevan on Wednesday as part of official ceremonies to mark the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.
Major General John Gronski, a deputy commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Major General Lee Tafanelli, the Kansas adjutant general, met with Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian on Tuesday at the start of a visit to Armenia highlighting growing U.S.-Armenian military cooperation.
A statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry said the U.S. military delegation headed by Gronski and Tafanelli “will take part tomorrow in festivities dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s independence.”
The ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, said separately that they will attend the military parade in Yerevan’s central Republic Square along with other foreign dignitaries.
The parade will involve hundreds of Armenian soldiers as well as tanks, artillery systems and other military hardware. A smaller number of Russian troops stationed in Armenia will also march through the sprawling square.
Hovannisian stressed that the main purpose of the U.S. delegation’s trip is to review growing military ties between Armenia and the United States.
Despite its military alliance with Russia, Armenia has stepped up defense cooperation with NATO and the U.S. in particular over the past decade. It has contributed troops to NATO-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan and increasingly participated in multinational exercises organized by the U.S. military in Europe.
The Defense Ministry statement said Ohanian and the U.S. generals praised the Armenian military’s ongoing cooperation programs with U.S. Army Europe and the Kansas National Guard, which is overseen by Tafanelli.
The statement added that Tafanelli, Gronski and U.S. officers accompanying them are also scheduled to watch a session of the latest training course held by U.S. instructors for Armenian army sappers. The latter are being trained to detect and defuse improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The statement further said the U.S. delegation will visit the Armenian army’s paramedic school that was opened last year. The first group of its 12 teaching personnel was trained by U.S. instructors.
The training programs stem from Yerevan’s plans to join in the near future more multinational peacekeeping missions abroad with medical and demining units specializing in IEDs.
A total of about 130 Armenian soldiers are currently serving in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Lebanon.
The U.S. has also been helping Armenia to recruit and train more non-commissioned contract officers in line with ongoing defense reforms supported by NATO. As part of that effort, 25 Armenian army sergeants underwent further training in Kansas last month.