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U.S. Airmen deployed for Clear Sky assist Ukrainians after car crash

  • Published
  • By Maj. Tristan Hinderliter
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa
Two U.S. Airmen deployed to Starokostiantyniv Air Base for the Clear Sky 2018 exercise came to the aid of several Ukrainians following a violent car crash Oct. 13, in downtown Khmelnytskyi, about 45 minutes from the air base.

Staff Sgt. Artem Lozgachev and Staff Sgt. Yaroslav Bolotov, were exiting a restaurant after dinner when they heard tires squeal, followed by a crash.

The NCOs sprinted toward the intersection where they heard a child crying and saw a sport utility vehicle on its side with the driver trying to push it back over. They assisted the driver in safely pushing the vehicle upright and checked with all involved for injuries. Everyone was safe, including a mother, toddler, young boy and elderly Ukrainian in the other vehicle. Emergency services were called, and police arrived to make a report.

Lozgachev and Bolotov are two of approximately 60 interpreters supporting Clear Sky, most of whom are active-duty Airmen from bases around the world. Some are part of the Air Force’s formal Language Enabled Airmen Program, others, like these two, are not part of the program but speak Ukrainian or Russian, both of which are widely spoken in Ukraine.

“We couldn’t do this exercise without our interpreters,” said Maj. Gen. Clay Garrison, California Air National Guard commander and Clear Sky exercise director. “In fact, this is the first exercise I’ve done over here where we’ve had this kind of support, and the difference in our capabilities by having them is amazing.”

Lozgachev, deployed from the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron at Aviano AB, Italy, was born in Moscow in 1988.

After his parents’ divorce, when he was young, which coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lozgachev's mother decided to look for opportunities elsewhere and eventually received a visa to work in the U.S..

Around 1991, his mother moved to California, while Lozgachev stayed in Russia with relatives. In 1996, when he was eight, Lozgachev joined his mother in the U.S. where he attended grade school, high school, some college, and eventually enlisted in the Air Force.

“In high school, I was the last person to see myself in a uniform, but after trying to juggle three jobs and school, I decided that enlisting would make a good career choice,” he said. “I wanted to become a civil engineer, so I was really happy for the opportunity to be an engineer assistant, since that is the closest Air Force specialty to being a full-on civil engineer – doing construction management, drafting floorplans, blueprints, and so on.”

At Clear Sky, Lozgachev has been interpreting between U.S. and Ukrainian pilots during mission briefs.

“This has been an awesome experience,” he said. “Being utilized as an interpreter for the pilots allows me to be part of the focal point of this exercise, which is getting the Ukrainians up to NATO standards.”

Bolotov, deployed from the 56th Communications Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, was also born in Russia. His family moved to the U.S. in 1999 when he was nine years old, and he grew up in Maryland before joining the Air Force about five years ago.

At Clear Sky, Bolotov has been providing interpretation for the ground control tower, coordinating aircraft taxiing and making sure taxiways are clear.

Both Lozgachev and Bolotov said they felt fortunate to be in the right place at the right time – and to have the language skills to be able to communicate – when they responded to the car crash.

“This is not an unusual story for me,” Garrison said. “They’re Airmen. We train them to be ready to go, and they’re always ready to go. I’m just very proud of the fact that here we are in Ukraine, in a foreign country, and these guys see something happen, and just like they would do in the States, they go to help people. That’s what American Airmen do.”