Cincinnati veteran trains soldiers in Ukraine on treating battlefield wounds

Barry Haynes of Mount Lookout has eight years of U.S. Army infantry experience, serving in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. But that combat know-how could not totally prepare him for his 90-day stint training Ukrainians on tactical combat casualty care and making humanitarian deliveries.

“The situation on the ground is nothing that I've ever been through … We don't have the air power,” says Haynes. He arrived in Ukraine in October, got back to Cincinnati in early January, and plans to return to the war-torn country in March.

In his travels around Ukraine, he saw that roads can get blown up, causing plans to change on the fly. His team must be “chameleon-like.”

“You have to be able to adapt really fast, and just be prepared for it, physically and mentally.”

What motivated you to go to Ukraine?
After eight years in the Army, he didn’t adjust well coming home after his last deployment. He loved what he was doing but had to stop due to an injury. As the Ukraine war intensified, he realized he could be of use, and applied for a 90-day visa.

“And then once you get over there you see how many ways to be useful. I really am glad I did go.”

With the group Task Force Yankee, he travels in small convoys to train Ukrainian troops. “On the way to do the training, we don't like to travel empty. So, we'll take a van full of infection pads and tourniquets. All kinds of equipment that needs to be distributed.” They are not armed.

“It can get a little hairy when you're running up to the front, but that's why we always join in with really trusted military units,” he says. His work took him to the oblasts of Kyiv, Lviv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and Donetsk. Most of his time was spent in areas with continuous fighting, zones that don’t get a reprieve from rocket attacks.

Much of the Russian shelling is indiscriminate, Haynes says. On New Year’s Eve, the Russians “helped Ukrainians celebrate with actual explosions. All day and all night.” Missiles hit kindergartens, fine arts centers, and museums.

What was his first day like?
Haynes saw immediately how grateful the Ukrainian people are for international help. After a long trip to get there in October, he signed into a hotel in Kyiv to rest up. A young woman in the elevator broke down in tears when she realized he was a foreigner who’d come to volunteer.

Haynes was soon busy training soldiers on battlefield injuries. “The No. 1 killer on the battlefield right now is massive bleeding, which is part of our training campaigns, how to use tourniquets, tamponades, and bandages correctly,” he says.

Loss of limbs, internal damage from shockwaves, collapsed lungs, and hypothermia from blood loss can be prevented with the right training.

Haynes is aiding two organizations. One, the Sofiia Okunevska Foundation, supports health care through provision of medical kits and armored ambulances during the Russian invasion. The second is Task Force Yankee Ukraine, a U.S.-based, multinational team, consisting of former military and civilians, each with their own skillsets, but all committed to helping Ukraine.

Donations are accepted at this website. Besides medical equipment, donations are needed to keep Task Force Yankee’s vehicles in working order.

The work of Task Force Yankee complements that of major non-governmental agencies such as International Medical Corps. An estimated 17.6 million people — more than 40% of Ukraine's population — require urgent humanitarian assistance, according to a Jan. 31 update.

As the first anniversary of the invasion nears on Feb. 24, experts say Russia is going to double down on its offensive.

Why do you want to go back, as danger intensifies?
“That's exactly the time when you're needed. It was already getting worse when I was in the Donetsk region, really bad. That was just four weeks ago,” he says.

“That's why the support from the West with the tanks and all this is extremely important getting there … We need to help them out. Tomorrow. They needed it yesterday.”
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Read more articles by Nancy Daly.

Nancy Daly is a veteran Kentucky and Cincinnati journalist. An "Army brat" who found a home in Kentucky, she is a University of Kentucky graduate. Her hobbies include reading, photography, watching streaming TV, including "Succession" and "Andor," and playing Alphabet Game on Zoom with five siblings across the globe.