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30 June 2020, 18:20

With Pride in Heart: Military service in Brest air assault brigade

Most of us associate special ops forces with skydiving. But servicemen joke back saying that a paratrooper is an eagle only three minutes, the rest of the time he is a work-horse. The level of combat training of “blue berets” is very high. BelTA's reporters saw it having visited the 38th Brest Independent Guards Vienna Red Banner Air Assault Brigade.

At the gate of the checkpoint we see the legendary BMD-1 airborne infantry fighting vehicle. Today's paratroopers continue traditions of the generation of victors. The brigade is the successor to the 105th Guards Rifle Division set up during the Great Patriotic War. For the courage and heroism in liberating the Hungarian cities Papa and Devecser it was honored with the Order of the Red Banner. For the liberation of the capital of Austria, it was awarded the honorary title of Vienna. In October 1979, the division was renamed into the 38th Airborne Assault Brigade.

Now its servicemen can choose almost any military specialty. Of course, the emphasis is on the training of air assault units. It is the skills and coordinated work of these soldiers that are essential for the success of a military exercise or a combat operation. But they do not perform a mission alone. They get cover on the ground and in the air from the anti-aircraft and artillery divisions. The engineering and demining company and the communications battalion perform a wide range of tasks. The reconnaissance and landing company needs no introduction.

“Our brigade was named the best military unit of the Belarusian Armed Forces in 2019; we got a commendation letter from the National Assembly. We study the best practices of the previous generations and closely follow current developments, because the situation across the world is changing rapidly. We proceed from the fact that we might have to act in the city and at night. We are remodeling our exercise area to simulate urban environments. We are getting ready for all kinds of developments,” said commander of the Brest air assault brigade.

He noted that the weaponry is constantly upgraded. For example, last year the vehicle pool of the Brest brigade welcomed the first Kaiman (Cayman) armored reconnaissance vehicle. Just like reptiles, these vehicles are fast and maneuverable on land and in the water; they show great performance at night, too. “Nearly all the armaments can be used in the darkness. Almost all the brigade members are equipped with the necessary optics to shoot at night. Belarus has a rather difficult terrain with many rivers, marshes and other barriers. In order to be able to move fast, we are equipped with vehicles that can be used for amphibious operation,” Aleksandr Ilyukevich noted.

The Brest exercise area and its infrastructure are undergoing large-scale modernization. The new infrastructure facilities include facilities for tactical movement drills, training in the urban combat environment, fire exercise of fighting vehicles, sniper training, new roads and routes with slopes. Paratroopers train to free hostages and clear buildings from the enemy in a new kill house.

Snipers are at the core of combat reconnaissance and counter-sabotage operations. This is why special attention is paid to their training. Such specialists are eyes and ears of a reconnaissance team. They need not only excellent accuracy, but also good intuition.

Guard Sergeant Aleksandra Rubanova feels at ease in men's company: gender differences do not matter on the frontline. Aleksandra Rubanova has been in training for only several months, but has already shown good results at national competitions. “This is an opportunity to try something new. I like shooting practice and physical exercise, take pleasure in getting work done. To my mind, there is nothing difficult in it. Sure, snipers need certain knowledge, should be able to adjust to weather conditions, and, of course, they need luck,” she believes. Aleksandra Rubanova makes it sound easy, but there are hours of training behind her story. In this case, without adjusting to weather conditions.

Aleksandra Rubanova admitted that during a shooting practice she zones out. “You do not think about anything but shooting. This is really fascinating, you are filled with excitement. It is even more interesting to work in pairs, because then not only individual, but also team results matter. No one wants to let their partner down,” she noted.

Oleg Kiyevich
Oleg Kiyevich

By the way, airborne training needs as much hard work. Initially the troops study tactical and technical parameters of the parachute systems D-6 and 3-5. Every part of the skydiving procedure is practiced on the ground. After many hours of training the soldiers are allowed to make the first jump. “I think during the first jump people can hardly think. It is comparable to driving a car: you start worrying at first, trying to recall what you've been taught, and act without thinking. We train the troops to be ready for emergencies so that they could find their bearings and fix the situation,” said Oleg Kiyevich, commanding officer of a reconnaissance airborne company.

His soldiers are packing their parachutes at the moment. The captain keeps an eye on the process, giving hints and making corrections since no errors are tolerated. “The parachute packing procedure must be followed precisely. This parachute system weighs 11.4kg. To be allowed to jump, a person needs to weigh no more than 120kg, including weapons, gear, and a cargo container,” Oleg Kiyevich explained.

In the course of the active military service the drafted soldiers make at least four parachute jumps. Those drafted in autumn make slightly more jumps than those drafted in spring.

Difficulties and versatility of the military service temper the spirit of the paratroopers and unite them. Paratroopers of different generations call themselves brothers.

Photos by Vadim Yakubyonok

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