DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- When Jeremy Fisher left Durham to fly to Ukraine, it was supposed to be a three week humanitarian trip to help in the Ukrainian freedom fight. It's now a commitment into its fifth month with no clear end date on when this retired U.S. Air Force sergeant will return to the Bull City. Fisher sold his house and his business in the Triangle to help pay for the efforts in the war zone.
"This is a completely independent mission that we're on to try and protect human lives and save innocent people," Fisher told ABC 11 via Zoom from central Ukraine. "We are training a little bit of everybody at this point."
At first, Fisher and his team, which includes other former U.S. service members, trained up mostly newly-enlisted Ukrainian soldiers - men and women who days before could've been coffee baristas, bus drivers or school teachers. It's a 4-week training program.
"It would be fantastic if they had more opportunity to learn. But that being said, there's something to be said for when you're fighting for a purpose. These people are hungry. They soak up the information like sponges," Fisher said. "We're teaching them basically to have confidence. And that is a game changer.
"When you go into war unsure of yourself and terrorized of the unknown, your actions replicate that. When you go in confident believing that you know what to do and that your teammates know what they're going to do and that you have each other's back, it changes the entire way that you fight. We're seeing very favorable results from it."
Jeremy and the other volunteers call themselves the Dark Horse Allies -- a nod to the free world's backing of the Ukrainian underdogs.
They're not just training soldiers. Former combat medics are teaching civilians how to survive in the war zone including combat casualty care and reacting to the indirect fire of a Russian mortar hitting an apartment building or school yard. Lessons on how to stay alive.
"The numbers over here are astonishing as far as fatalities," Fisher said. "I think it's one of the most underreported things going on, on both sides."
Since last month, reports have been growing from the war zone of Ukrainian military success: reclaiming territories occupied by Russian military. Fisher says he unsurprised.
"I'm extremely proud. I won't use the word surprised at all. I'm extremely proud. These guys are incredible," he said. "One of the things that (Vladmir) Putin did not see coming is that an army that is fighting only because they hate what's in front of them, is gonna get defeated every single time by a fighting force that's fighting because they love what's behind them.
Not only is the work of Dark Horse Allies dangerous, Fisher going public is risky as well. There's potential he could become a target of the Russian government. Fisher told ABC 11, "It's worth the risk" to bring attention to the struggle and need for more money to fund the efforts.
Click HERE for more information about Dark Horse Allies and to make a donation.