Local police drive us to a remote section of a Utah valley where they say a unit of foreign fighters is stationed. The region resembles the one in some parts of Ukraine that were recently struck by shelling. The structures are leveled and bomb craters are visible all over the place.
The distant rumble of outgoing artillery can be heard as we walk under the cover of trees. A small snake slithers by and quickly disappears. We walk up a small ramp and into a courtyard where soldiers are hurriedly packing up a vehicle in which they plan to head for the front lines. American accents are heard back and forth on their radio comms. Surprised and baffled to see a group of journalists, they wave us away. Clearly, they have other pressing matters. But after some calls with their commander, we’re told we can have access to one American fighter and medic — known to her unit as “Baby Dog.” She stands under the hot Ukrainian sun — dressed in full military uniform, her medical gear in the flak jacket pockets. Her gun rests off her right shoulder, along with the yellow tape — a sign of allegiance to Ukraine — which is wrapped around her left arm and shoulder like a bandana would be worn on one’s head. She covers her face with a dark green balaclava when she speaks on camera; but only her eyes are visible through her glasses.
I wasn’t doing a lot of at-home work. It was definitely just working two jobs, though quite boring.
A 21-year-old American paramedic known as “Baby Dog” purchased a one-way ticket to Ukraine to join the fight to defend the nation from being attacked by Russian forces. Working her two jobs in Utah, this 21-year-old American paramedic felt compelled to do something when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. She saw the situation unfolding on the news, so she bought a one-way ticket and joined the fight defending her homeland against Russian aggression. “This is a human thing. You can’t sit back and watch. It’s like sitting and watching someone kicking a dog for no reason, kicking a dog in the head. It’s crying. You don’t stop it,” she told CNN in a village on the outskirts of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine. NN will not disclose her name or unit’s exact location due to security concerns and risks for foreign fighters stationed there.
Natalie signed up with Ukraine’s International Legion of Territorial Defense, a charitable organization launched by the government in February 2015 to engage foreign militias, became a soldier in its ranks. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pointed out that one week after the Legion had been launched, 20,000 people from 52 countries had shown interest in volunteering to fight for Ukraine.
Working as a paramedic in a unit made up of German and American soldiers, Baby Dog compares her new life to something out of a James Bond film. The violence and death she has seen are nothing new for Bond, who has seen combat up close more than once.
I had my heavy medic bag with me. Everybody had their supplies on. It was raining, it was miserable, she said. We were climbing a 45-degree hill on the road, and then out of the blue, just a giant cluster bomb went off.
The force of the blast threw her into the tree line, Baby Dog recounted. She could see one of their soldiers lying on the road, so she got to her feet and started to run towards him when the second bomb hit. “I got there and then the second barrage went off,” she said. “They usually come in twos here.” Russia’s use of the “double tap” tactic creates chaos by striking the same location twice with a few minutes’ interval. According to Baby Dog, cluster bombs — small bombs within a main one that explode sporadically — were used in this attack. “We managed to pull him (the wounded soldier) into the tree line while the cluster bomb was going off,” Baby Dog said as she described pulling her comrade to safety during an already harrowing experience. By then, he had already passed away from his injuries.”
Her fallen foreigner was only among the foreign fighters killed in action in Ukraine last Sunday. Last Saturday, the spokesperson for the International Legion of Defense, Damien Magrou, honored four deceased soldiers.
“We are here to honor our fallen brothers who traveled to Ukraine and joined the bravest of the brave in fighting shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine’s defenders, who came here to defend values they believed in,” Magrou said, calling them “unsung heroes.”
On Wednesday, a court in the breakaway pro-Russian republic of Donetsk sentenced three foreign fighters to death, an announcement that underscored the ongoing fight in Ukraine. The Britons and Moroccan captured in mid-April were accused by DPR officials of working as mercenaries. “It was very tough. The thought of, like that could have been me,” Baby Dog told CNN regarding the loss of her comrade. She says the horrors she’s seen and experienced such as this have shaken her faith in God.
She hadn’t really seen what humans could do to one another until she arrived in Iraq. “It’s kind of shaken me a little bit to think that He would allow this or just let it happen,” she said as she looked away and tapped her gun. Although she hasn’t had any nightmares and doesn’t expect to have them, returning home will be difficult. “I’m going to have to play artillery in the background,” she added, chuckling.