Original by Aleksandr Kots published by Komsomolskaya Pravda; translation by J.Hawk
The Heroes of Our Time
The four young officers wearing parade uniforms on the Frunze Embankment of the Moscow river did not attract much attention. On the Victory Day, the capital usually teems with people in uniforms bedecked with decorations. The cleanly shaven faces, direct gazes, a spring in their step…They walked up to the monument to the heroes of the film “Officers” in front of the National Defense Center, laid down flowers, and saluted, rendering military greetings to the bronze images of the heroes of the past. A youth group finally got its turn at the monument, and enthusiastically wrapped itself around it to take commemorative photos. Had they known that two steps from the statues are the very real heroes of our time, they would not have left without a selfie or two. It is about people like these two lieutenant colonels and two captains that Vladimir Putin uttered these words at the Victory Parade:
“We feel a deep blood tie to the generation of heroes and victors. And when speaking to them, I will say this: you will never feel shame because of us. A Russian, a Russian soldier is as ready today as at any time in history to demonstrate bravery and heroism to accomplish whatever must be done. Such soldiers are present today in the parade formations on Moscow’s Red Square. The Country is proud of you!”
On the Defense Minister’s memorandum on granting the officers high state awards, the Commander-in-Chief wrote: “I will decorate them personally.”
Unfortunately, one cannot always give the full names of these heroes. They would have also likely refused a selfie. Daniil, Evgeniy, Roman, and Vyacheslav are officers of the Special Operations Forces (SSO), an elite of Russia’s Armed Forces. The President recently signed a decree on awarding the officers high state honors. As the group’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Daniil was given the title Hero of Russia.
The four young officers wearing parade uniforms on the Frunze Embankment of the Moscow river did not attract much attention.
I am always struck by the modesty with which true heroes speak of their feats. No big deal, just work.
“We did a good day’s work”
–It was a normal day, nothing but routine, -Daniil shrugs his shoulders.
–We received information that an-Nusra fighters have grown more active attackign government positions in a part of Aleppo Province, -Lieutenant Colonel Evgeniy reminisces. -We got the mission to go to the area to conduct recon and localize concentrations of terrorists and equipment to guide our aircraft. We took up positions and went to work.
A 16-strong Spetsnaz team close to the front lines identified buildings occupied by the enemy, its defensive positions, armored vehicles, munitions dumps, travel routes. This information was instantly sent up the chain, then guided the aircraft in. With the help of air, three tanks and one MRL battery were destroyed, plus several improvised launchers and two storage dumps.
-We did a good day’s work, -Evgeniy smiles. -But one beautiful morning things sharply escalated. Our positions came under massed fire. Using Grads, mortars, artillery, even tanks.
16 Russian spetsnaz repelled an assault by 300 militants for an entire day.
Four attacks repelled. One had to do a bit of running
Syrian forces withdrew due to the c
ommand and control problems among the various subunits. Daniil decides to stay on the front lines.
-A drone detected a shakhid-mobile (a vehicular IED, with a suicide driver) moving toward us. But our experienced ATGM gunners reacted in time. The vehicle exploded far from our positions.
The ATGM gunners specialize in using anti-tank guided missiles. Their commander, Captain Roman, explains the peculiarities of working in Syria.
-Just to make this clear, the shakhid-mobile was led by a bulldozer covered by 3-4 layers of steel plates, with sand between them. The shakhid-mobile followed. As a rule it’s a BMP-1. We took up a position on the right flank, the Kornet operator hit the BMP with the
first shot. The explosion was such that it took out the bulldozer too. Then we had to change positions. The enemy has many ATGMs, mostly of foreign manufacture. We’d get a missile on our positions within 30-40 seconds of our shot. One had to do a bit of running. Within the next 90 minutes we destroyed a tank which fired on our group from a neighboring hilltop. One has to give them their due, they aren’t totally clueless. We had to sweat to take out that tank. Toward the evening we also took out a truck-mounted ZU-23. Much respect to the Kornet ATGM which once again excelled.
In a single day, the small team of spetsnaz repelled four attacks. By the most modest estimates, there were about 300 of them.
-And they were highly trained, -Daniil assures us. -Afterwards, when inspecting the damage, we realized the terrorists were very well equipped. Imported uniforms, go-pro cameras on their heads, expensive field medical kits. Some dark-skinned mercenaries among them. Local Syrians don’t have the money for stuff like that. Moreover, they displayed serious training on the battlefield. Their weapons are not only Soviet and Chinese but also US and Israeli.
When the night came, the commander decided to mine the approaches to own positions. Using thermal vision devices, combat engineers moved out to 500m from own positions under the cover of snipers. Captain Vyacheslav’s group laid a barrier of command-detonated AT and AP mines. And not for naught.
“There was no other way”
-When it got a bit lighter, the attacks resumed, a second, then third wave, -Vyacheslav says matter-of-factly. -We detonated one mine after another, destroyed some armor and killed personnel.
It was impossible to count enemy casualties. According to our spetsnaz, the militants always try to carry out their dead during the night. But in the immediate vicinity of their positions, spetsnaz troops found about 30 corpses. They had out for more than a day, until government forces arrived. Then the terrorists lost the will to attack. The Russians relinquished their positions to Syrian forces and returned to their original positions without losses.
-You made a conscious choice to accept battle or was it spontaneous? -I ask the group commander.
-We know their psychology, we know they can’t sustain the attack for long, -Daniil says. -We were sure of ourselves, we knew the terrain made defense possible. Attacking there was much more difficult, so they were in a losing situation.
-And if you had retreated?
-Then the militants would have taken commanding heights which would have required a week to recover. And Syrian losses would have been that much greater.
-This was the only possible decision, -Evgeniy exudes certitude. -There was no other way.