Sgt. Pongracz returns from Ukrainian training mission

Colourful display of historical Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry memorabilia now on show in Killarney Place


A local serviceman has returned after playing an important role as part of a Canadian Armed Forces mission in the Ukraine.

Sgt. Tyler Pongracz, a boat-loving soldier and local firefighter, lives in Killarney with his wife Amanda and their young son Jack. 

Pongracz was deployed in the middle of June to join Operation UNIFIER, a mission to support the Security Forces of Ukraine. 

Based at CFB Shilo, Pongracz left Canada on a military flight along with a contingent of around 135 other Canadian soldiers from western Canada.

“I will be there to assure that standards are met,” said Sgt. Pongracz, shortly before his departure. “We will be training them to work better, with NATO operability, and more in line with the methods of a modern, western, conventional army.”

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) launched Operation UNIFIER – also known as Canadian Armed Forces Joint Force – Ukraine – in response to requests from the Government of Ukraine. The intent is to help Ukraine remain sovereign, secure, and stable, according to the government.

The training mission harmonized its efforts with other nations through a Multinational Joint Commission, which includes Canada, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, and Sweden.

The CAF’s primary focus in Ukraine is to build the Security Forces of Ukraine’s capacities to enable enduring reforms, and the training is taking place at several locations across western and central Ukraine.

“I had a really great time, and learned a lot about the Ukraine culture that people don’t know about,” said Pongracz, who returned home to Killarney in early October. “They were really kind to me, and I was sad to leave. They became family to me.”

During his mission, Amanda Pongracz had sent her husband both the local Legion flag and a Killarney Fire Rescue t-shirt by military mail, as he requested. Pongracz transported the precious items along with him in Ukraine, to various unspecified locations, and managed to secure some great photos. 

And the Canadian military mission to that country was also a success, he added.

“The training was excellent, and a lot of good experiences were exchanged between the Canadians and the Ukrainian Army,” said Pongracz. 

Since 2015, the CAF has provided training to 1,129 members of the National Guard of Ukraine. This training has included the provision of mentorship and guidance to Ukrainian personnel, supporting the development of individual and collective training, military engineering, and explosive device disposal training, they said.

It also includes military police training, including the use of force, and basic investigative techniques courses. It also employs medical training that provides casualty evacuation and combat first aid training.

“I’m currently on leave with our family here in Killarney, and I will be back at CFB Shilo in January,” said Pongracz. “I’m a platoon LAV (light armoured vehicle) sergeant at the base, and I train new soldiers.”

And last week Pongracz was busy working on his big wood boat, and also putting together a special exhibition of military memorabilia in the Killarney Place mall in time for Remembrance Day, November 11.

“The display is a history of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry, which was started in 1916 and continues today,” he said. “That’s my battalion and regiment. It’s in the showcase window at Gwen’s Trends (see photo on page 9), and it also includes the original Killarney Legion flag, which dates back to 1914.”

And during the upcoming Remembrance Day, Pongracz is hoping to meet up with a number of good friends.

“Around 11 to 15 retired veterans are driving down from Brandon to meet at the Cenotaph at 11 a.m. on November 11,” he said. “Regardless of COVID-19 it is important to remember all the veterans. These guys served in places that included Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, and Iraq. They are all my friends, and they are also coming to see the display set up in the mall, and to hang out together on Remembrance Day.”

SIGNPOST TO KILLARNEY – Sgt. Tyler Pongracz takes a knee next to the small signpost to Killarney – which he had just fixed to this multiple signpost in a Canadian Forces camp in the N-NW region of Ukraine back in September of 2020. Other serving soldiers had left their own hometown additions in past years, he said, so he decided to fix one for Killarney to the post. (Which is over 77,000 kilometres away, for your information.) “I had just made the sign and put it up, and a random passerby took the photo,” said Sgt. Pongracz. “It’s a permanent sign, and it’s never coming off.”

THE KILLARNEY LEGION FLAG UNFURLED IN UKRAINE – Sgt. Tyler Pongracz of CFB Shilo poses in a damaged Ukrainian building with the local Legion Flag during his tour of duty there this past year. “This is the Legion’s current flag, which dates back to around the 1960s,” he said. “And you can see the first original Killarney Legion #25 Branch flag in our Remembrance Day display in the show window of Gwen’s Trends in Killarney Place mall. It dates back to 1914.” Pongracz was in the Ukraine as part of Operation UNIFIER, a mission to support the Security Forces of Ukraine.

KILLARNEY FIRE FIGHTER SHIRT SPOTTED IN UKRAINE – Sergeant Tyler Pongracz proudly displays a Killarney-Turtle Mountain Fire Rescue t-shirt – of which he is a serving member – during his tour of duty this past year in the Ukraine. His wife Amanda sent him the shirt by military post, so he could snap this image.

HISTORY OF THE PRINCESS PATRICIA CANADIAN LIGHT INFANTRY – A very interesting display of the 100-year-plus history of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry is currently on show in the window of Gwen’s Trends, in Killarney Place mall. Local soldier, Sgt. Tyler Pongracz, a platoon LAV sergeant at CFB Shilo, put this special military exhibition together as part of his tribute to Veterans’ Week.