YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Senior Armenian and U.S. military officials inaugurated on Tuesday the newly renovated training center of an Armenian army brigade that contributes troops to NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
The main three-story building of the Zar Military Training Facility has been refurbished and equipped as part of the first stage of the renovation mostly financed by the United States.
Speaking at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held there, Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian and Brigadier General Dawne Deskins of the U.S. military’s European Command hailed the development as another milestone in U.S.-Armenian defense cooperation. Sargsian said that the center will be further expanded and modernized in the coming years.
The reconstruction work was officially launched in March this year in the presence of Sargsian, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills and high-ranking officers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Armenian army’s Peacekeeping Brigade has received considerable financial and technical assistance from the U.S. and other NATO member states since it was set up in the early 2000s. NATO assigned a higher degree of combat readiness and interoperability to the brigade after monitoring a four-day exercise held by it at Zar in 2015.
More than 130 soldiers of the brigade are currently deployed in Kosovo, Afghanistan as well as Lebanon.
“We greatly appreciate Armenia’s participation in international peacekeeping operations and NATO-led and other multinational exercises,” U.S. President Donald Trump said in a September 21 letter to his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian.
Armenia plans to join more peacekeeping missions abroad with specialized medical and demining units in the near future. They will undergo U.S. training before such deployment.
In October 2016, Sargsian and Mills inaugurated a new paramedic school of the Armenian armed forces. U.S. military instructors trained the first group of Armenian teaching personnel for the school in August 2015.
Mills said in July Armenia’s military and political alliance with Russia does not prevent it from forging closer security ties with the U.S. “The cooperation between the United States and Armenia in this area has moved forward and deepened in recent years,” he said.