Senator Ernst. (photo form Ernst’s office)

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says a provision in a bill the senate passed last night authorizes the U.S. military to train Ukrainian soldiers how to remove the explosives Russia’s military has dumped in the Black Sea.

“Reclaiming the Black Sea would be a major step forward for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” Ernst says, “allowing them to resume trade from their most important port.”

The Port of Odessa is on the Black Sea, a body of water that is now invested with hundreds of mines. The operation to remove those mines is included in this year’s $858 billion defense spending bill. President Biden is expected to sign the legislation, which will provide an additional $800 millions to Ukraine’s war effort.

“Training and armed the Ukrainian military keeps U.S. service members safe, supports a U.S. partner, degrades one of our most vicious foes, “Ernst says, “and preserves American safety and prosperity.”

The bill will also get rid of the requirement that American soldiers get COVID-19 vaccinations. Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, says 8000 soldiers who refused to get a COVID shot have been discharged from the regular military. The mandate for National Guard and Reserve units was to take effect at the end of the year.

“With record low recruitment across all service branches, shrinking the number of service members puts our national security at risk,” Ernst says. “This was the right move for our military readiness.”

This year’s National Defense Authorization Act includes a 4.6% increase in the basic pay for service members — the largest military pay hike in 20 years.