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Veterans Aid | Veterans Aid

3 min read Partner content

A group of Ukrainian psychologists, in the UK as part of OP INTERBOW visited Veterans Aid this week to learn about the charity's internationally acclaimed wellbeing model and discuss the universal challenges of dealing with trauma and recovery.

CEO of Veterans Aid, Dr Hugh Milroy, said afterwards "VA is not a combat-focused organisation, but the pathway to  stability represented by our unique Welfare to Wellbeing© pathway  has been found to be effective regardless of the cause of trauma. The veteran experience is a universal one that has no national or ideological boundaries. We were honoured to be included in the psychologists' visit programme and welcomed the opportunity to share our expertise in restoration of post-service wellbeing."

The visitors, accompanied by an interpreter and some of their British Army hosts, had a tour of VA's Victoria  HQ/Operations Centre and met members of the charity’s frontline team.  Ranging in ages, and with varying levels of professional and combat experience, they expressed interest in how VA dealt with issues as diverse as addiction homelessness, social isolation, and trauma.

Dr Milroy, and  key members of his frontline team,  took questions and discussed some of the complexities relating to treatment of underlying as well as obvious manifestations of distress. Acknowledging the very real challenges faced by Ukrainian volunteers, combatants, veterans, and their extended families, he talked about  the importance of both timely  intervention and, in some cases,  commitment to long-haul investment of time and money as components of effective recovery.

The first cohort of Ukrainian medics trained on Op INTERBOW completed their course in June 2023; further five week courses, incorporating elements dedicated specifically to the training needs of psychologists,  followed. The training, which is  being delivered to both current and new Ukrainian Armed Forces medics, teaches  life-saving medical techniques and strategies for providing battlefield trauma care. The  course not only focuses on immediate  need but looks to a future where combatants will be veterans .

Evidence from the battlefield and requests from Ukrainian personnel have been incorporated into the programme, with trainees being instructed on how best to optimise their own health so they are fit to fight. The trainees go on to put their learning to the test in practice battlefield scenarios to give them the confidence to effectively apply their skills back on the front line.

To date ten countries (Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, The Netherlands,  Australia and Romania) have signed up to the Op INTERFLEX partnership of which OP INTERBOW is a component. More recently  the UK’s wider package of support has evolved to include upskilling Ukrainian Marines, with British Commandos training Ukraine’s forces in small boat amphibious operations, as well as mine-clearance training by the Royal Engineers, Army chaplaincy support and trauma response training.  


EDITORS NOTE: Dr Hugh Milroy, OBE PhD, is a former RAF officer who has been CEO Veterans Aid since 2005. He is an Honorary Professor of Social Work at the University of East Anglia and  Head of Wellbeing at the World Veterans Federation.

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