As mentioned earlier, the platoon was staffed by experienced specialists: each diver had several dives to perform various engineering tasks underwater, sappers repeatedly took part in demining, each had more than one hundred explosive items destroyed from World War II. Driver mechanics participated in exercises for the landing of naval tactical assault forces. Combat coordination consisted in improving skills: sappers worked out tasks for making passages in mine-explosive obstacles, divers descended into the water, and PTS-M mechanics worked out tasks of driving afloat and trained to load the landing craft backwards out of the water (conveyor width just 15 cm less width ramp BDK). And, of course, all together with the company of marines performed exercises firing from small weapons.
Following to Baltiysk
When loading the equipment onto the military echelon platform, Major N. Grinnik provided me and the PTS-M driver mechanics a lot of help. Under his leadership, brake "shoes", pads and wire for mounting equipment were prepared in advance for all equipment landing. Loading took place on time, as did unloading in Baltiysk and loading at the Krasnaya Presnya BDK. Then the equipment was firmly fixed in a stormy way, because the sea does not always calm, but most of all it pumps the bow and stern of the ship, and the PTS-M was the first in the first twin deck. Reliability of fastening was checked in the Bay of Biscay, where the ship fell into a strong storm. The mount has withstood. Platoon sailors were placed in the landing cockpit, I was placed in the landing cabin with the tank crew: the commander of a floating company tanks Senior Lieutenant A. Sudnikov and platoon commanders Senior Lieutenants O. Belevantsev and V. Zamaraev. We made friends quickly, and during the entire military service there was not a single case that we had disagreements. Particularly friends with senior lieutenant A. Sudnikov. This is a real professional, erudite, competent officer. The reference book for him in the cabin was a textbook on PT-76, and, of course, he knew his device, operation and repair thoroughly. On his initiative and under his leadership, live firing from the stern ramp of the ship was carried out for the first time, the tasks of getting out of the “sunken” tank from the depth of 5 m in isolation vehicles were worked out. Although the Krasnaya Presnya BDK was a relatively new, modernized ship, living conditions were the airborne officers were truly Spartan. Our cabin was especially “lucky”: not only were there no air conditioners in the cabins of the landing officers, there was also a bakery in the neighborhood with us that did not add coolness to us. But still I remember the smell of freshly baked bread. In the cockpits of the sailors, the air conditioners worked properly. When the ship was at the crossing, it was relatively cool - they caught oncoming streams of air from the portholes, and when the ship was standing at the wall or in the raid, it was impossible to sleep because of the heat and stuffiness. A little fan saved a little, and since there were four of us in the cabin, they slept relatively normally every four nights.
Transition to the place of combat service (in the port of Conakry)
We went out in the winter, in December, therefore we were dressed accordingly, but after a few days we were already dressed in tropical form. When the ship with the landing on board passed the Danish Straits, the English Channel, combat alarms were constantly announced, so we could see little: the landing went into the quarters, and in the cabins the windows were closed with "armor". The alarms were announced for the reason that we were constantly accompanied by warships and boats of the NATO countries, their planes and helicopters flew around, and shooting was being carried out from boats and helicopters. The days were busy with combat training and service. I went on duty at the landing party, the sailors of the platoon were involved in the outfits of the amphibious assault corps, daily for twins, and other outfits. Combat alarms were announced several times a day. 28 arrived in the port of Conakry on December, that is, on the very eve of the new year, 1977, where the Black Sea fleet troops were replaced. The ship was put at the wall, and began everyday fighting. With the release of the BDK into the open sea, together with the personnel of the landing force, they carried out combat shooting exercises from small arms on floating targets. Well, our most important task was to inspect the bottom, screws and rudders of the ship before transitions. Descents were carried out with a stern ramp; no explosive devices were found. In Conakry, the conditions were relatively comfortable: visibility in the water was satisfactory, fresh water was constantly supplied from the shore, and jogging along the pier was allowed in the morning. Guided tours of the city were conducted in groups of five sailors led by an officer. For the first time, everyone was eager to look at local exoticism, but since the uniform for excursions was not tropical at all - pants, shoes, long-sleeved shirt, tie and peaked cap (it's 45-degree heat!), Then in minutes 15 was no time for exotics. The second time to visit Conakry was not.
In February, we were announced that we were going to the Republic of Benin, since there was an attempt of a coup d'état by a detachment of mercenaries. We were ready for anything, but we didn’t have to fight: the coup failed, and by the time we arrived, the mercenaries had already gone home. The capital of Benin, Cotonou, arrived on the eve of February 23. Our ship was visited by employees of the embassy, the military mission and their families, headed by the Soviet ambassador to the Republic of Benin. They greeted us enthusiastically, like relatives, because a few days ago, indiscriminate shooting was carried out on the streets of the city, there was a high probability of a coup. And then, as it turned out, our ship was the first warship of our country to visit the port of Cotonou. There was a suggestion to visit the embassy. Ten people were selected, including me. The holiday ended, and weekdays began. The landing party was tasked to promote its country, equipment and training. If tankers and gunners demonstrated equipment, then my platoon got a demonstration of combat training. The fact is that both of my squad leaders are ml. Sergeant V. Kiryakov and Art. sailor V. Dolgov - had the first sports category in sambo, they had to show hand-to-hand fighting techniques. On the upper deck mats were laid, Dolgov was dressed in the form of marines, and Kiryakov - in a camouflage suit (denoted "enemy"). The presentation of receptions to the President of Benin, Colonel Mathieu Kerek, was very pleasant, and he sent his deputies to the ship, then the members of the government, etc., right up to the students of Benin universities. After the second demonstration, the guys got bruises and abrasions: the mats were thin, and the deck, as you know, was metal, and sometimes the throws were between the mats and past them. After the third show, the whole body was already aching, but the guys steadfastly held out until the end, and all had to demonstrate hand-to-hand fighting techniques five or six times.
The training descents under water were not conducted, since the water in the port had a coffee color and the visibility under water was almost zero. After Benin, the ship went to Luanda, the capital of Angola, where a revolution had recently taken place and the state gained independence. The country was a civil war. Government troops led by Angolan President Antonio Agostinho Neto were assisted by our military advisers. At the transition BDK crossed the equator. The overwhelming majority of the assault force personnel passed the equator for the first time. Therefore, a theatrical performance was prepared - the feast of Neptune. The role of Neptune was played by the commander of the landing party, Major S. Remizov. Everything went great, each was handed personal certificates confirming the intersection of the equator. This event was a good psychological relief for the personnel of both the landing and the ship. Upon arrival in Luanda, the BDK was immediately placed astern to the wall. Visibility in the water was excellent, from the deck of the ship could be viewed the bottom of the bay. I turned to the commander of the landing with a request to organize training descents under the water in the bay next to the ship. Major S. Remizov also expressed a desire to go down under the water. He knew the basics of a diving business, so after additional training and instruction he successfully completed several dives. We had the diving apparatus of the regenerative type (i.e., without exhaling into the water) of the TP brand (tactical navigation) - a lightweight version of the IDA-71 apparatus. During the very first descents under water, a group of Cubans in military-style uniforms approached us, but without any insignia. They did not speak Russian, but with the help of gestures and individual words I realized that they, too, are divers and know our TP device well. Later I saw them in action - they worked out their tasks under water. These were real professionals - combat swimmers.
In Luanda itself, the hostilities had just recently ended, fighting with the opposition was still going on in the suburbs, so I, assuming that weapons and ammunition could be found at the bottom of the bay, forbade divers to touch and even more to lift something to the surface. During one of the descents under water almost got injured Art. sailor V. Dolgov. The descents were organized according to all the rules of the diving service. Flags “Zero” were hung on the BDK, meaning “Go diving work, the movement of vessels is prohibited.” This is an international signal. But at that time, when the diver was under water, the boat, standing nearby, unexpectedly started off, and Dolgov almost tightened under the screws. The two of us, together with the sailor Shishkin, who provided the diver, literally pulled him out of the screws. There were no walking tours around the city due to the hostilities, but there was a guided tour in the buses. The city is beautiful, especially impressed with the old fortress, which offers a great view of the city and the harbor. In Cotonou and in Luanda, there were demonstrations of a naval landing for presidents of states. Three units of equipment landed on the plains - a floating tank PT-76, BTR-60PB and our PTS-M, which always landed first, which was due to its placement on the ship. It imposed a big responsibility. PTS-M was used as an evacuation and rescue tool, although it can also be used as an amphibious assault vehicle, since it is able to take the 72 paratrooper on board. In the event of a defeat or failure of the landing technique, a towline was fixed to the forcoper of the conveyor, the other end of which was placed on the conveyor, where three divers were in full gear - the descending, providing and insuring the readiness to descend into the water and fix the second end of the cable by the hook failure of equipment for further evacuation. In the case of flooding technology divers were ready to rescue the crew. In Benin, everything went smoothly and did not have to use PTS-M as an evacuation rescue tool, but in Luanda, when showing the landing of the amphibious assault to the Angolan president, the PT-76 floating tank suddenly stalled (as it turned out, there was a coolant leak). Everything went quickly and clearly, because this question was worked out more than once before combat service: the diver descended into the water, secured the end of the cable by the hook of the stalled tank, which was successfully towed to shore. Well, the president was informed that he had been shown the evacuation of the failed landing technique.
End of military service and return home
The term of combat service was coming to an end. BDK made the transition to the port of Conakry, it remained to wait for the replacement, which came in two weeks. This term is used to clean up the ship and the landing technique. From sea water and high humidity on the PTS-M hull rust spots appeared, so I had to peel off the paint, prime it and paint the whole conveyor. Tidied and ship. Special metal scrapers scraped off the old paint on the upper deck and applied a fresh coat of paint. After the arrival of the shift, the BDK headed for Baltiysk. When it was no more than 12 hours to go, a team arrived to take part in the joint exercises of the fleets of the USSR, Germany and Poland on the landing of the naval assault "Val-77". The ship was involved only in maneuvers and landing demonstrations. At the end of the exercise, we arrived in Baltiysk, where our BDK Krasnaya Presnya was solemnly greeted by the commander of the Baltic Fleet with an orchestra and a roasted pig. They were a little jealous of the naval officers and midshipmen for whom the military service was over, they were met by their wives and children, and we were faced with a number of other events - unloading from the BDK, loading onto railway platforms and moving to the Pechenga station of the Murmansk railway. All of these events were clear, but the end of our move was overshadowed by a sharp deterioration in the weather - it suddenly became cold, it began to snow, a snowstorm broke out (this is the end of June!). I had to freeze, because from the heat and high humidity winter clothes were covered with mold and many, including myself, threw out their winter jackets. But it was all a trifle, the main thing is that we came home. True, I and the platoon still had to make the 180 kilometer march to my unit, so I saw my family a little bit later than the other officers and warrant officers of the landing party.