Mining subgroup charges pass in front of the company tent. The platoon commander determines the numerical strength, appoints the eldest, and also indicates the type and amount of mine-explosives. If this is a “novelty of engineering thought”, conducts additional instructions on the rules of application, reminds of the inadmissibility of the product falling into the hands of the enemy. Next, we independently prepare for the fighting exit.
There are two or three miners in the reconnaissance group, usually our charges are the same. Each of the bombers is an equal in firepower combat unit. The most common weapons - directional fragmentation mines. MON-50 - easy, easy to use, effective. Manage undermining by wire. Special compact device - blasting machine. Upon impact on its rod, an electrical impulse is generated, the command from which is transmitted to the detonators in a fraction of a second. Our task during the "day" to block dangerous areas on the approaches to the scouts. At night, if the conditions are suitable, we are responsible for placing the charges on the side of the road. It is necessary to disguise and send mines to the enemy's transport, if possible, to hit it. Ten days ago, near the northern tip of Kandahar Zelenka, we successfully worked for the first time, stopping the exploding of three cars.
I am preparing for a fighting exit so. First I look at my personal weapon. Be sure to gut rifle assault rifles. They are fourteen. I move the metal cover from the bottom. I get the spring. Wrapping the end of the automatic ramrod with a paper for cleaning the weapon, I remove a greasy layer of dust from the inside. I have a quick look over the cartridges that have been in the case, and are not suitable without hesitation; I am replacing them with new ones. After my prophylaxis, zinc charges remain that are suitable only at first glance. Later they will be shot at the shooting range or destroyed. Such a scrupulous attitude is not a whim, but the expectation that at night in an area whose population treats us extremely hostile, my machine gun should not let me down.
Two horns stuffed with tracer bullets. They can be useful in exceptional cases. In a night battle, it’s not possible to figure out what kind of cartridges you load into the machine gun. A shot by a tracer unmasks a position. Therefore, the "specific" stores immediately remove to the bottom of the right pocket of the paratrooper’s knapsack.
Then, having received everything we need in the engineering warehouse, we leave for the territory of the company dogman. I unwind the coil with a twin sapper wire. I measure its length with steps, I check the integrity of the insulation in twisted places. Next, I connect the electric-explosion circuit to the blasting machine, move the instrument lever to the stowed position, and sharply press the rod. A lit indicator shows line integrity. I clean and carefully twist the copper wires of each end into one bundle. Gently wind the cable on the base cut from H-shaped plywood. The coil is ready.
Operability of electric detonators is checked in a similar way. I am convinced that the lever of the mode switch of the subversive machine is in the stowed position, the red signals on the tides are closed. A fighter of our company lost an eye this month - when checking the detonator, he left the switch in a combat position. Demoman's craft requires special preparation. Working with substances capable, having flashed, to allocate a tremendous amount of energy in a fraction of a millisecond, and simply explode, it requires a conscious understanding of what you are doing. There are no trifles here. Recklessness is not forgiven. Detonator is lowered into a shallow thirty-centimeter pit, opened near the rear wall of the open enclosures for dogs. At the time of launching hiding around the corner of the building. The detonator may be defective, or the testing device may generate a signal that exceeds the threshold value. Shock on the rod, everything is in order, - a flash of the LED indicates good operation.
In order for a blasting signal to simultaneously trigger several charges, it is necessary to connect them with sectional segments from a detonating cord. A centimeter diameter tube made of a high blasting explosive in a red polymer shell is already a small bomb. The transmission speed of the detonation of up to nine thousand meters per second. Working with the cord is the most delicate in my collections. Trim the desired segment size is necessary only at a time. Then at both ends I attach to the detonator. Gently twisting the meter deadly pieces into rings, send them for temporary storage in a satchel.
Each scout in combat equipment has a signal pyrotechnics. The procedure for its use is strictly stipulated. I have two reactive signal cartridges. One of the rocket launchers is inserted into the pocket of the bib, the second is located in the pocket of the paratrooper’s satchel. At the very bottom of the backpack, along with mines, ground signal cartridges are laid: orange smoke to indicate the helicopter landing pad and to identify itself for aviation in the afternoon; red light cartridge to indicate position at night, if the group has entered the battle and air support is needed. When the aircraft arrives in the area and reports to the commander of the special forces on readiness for work, the soldiers indicate the location of the group, scattering burning torches from the perimeter. Further, the officer, tying the pilots to his positions, indicates the goal.
In the night battle, lighting tools will be useful to us. After the completion of the fleeting, two or three minutes, squall fire raid in the second part of the battle, it is necessary to destroy the surviving conductors of the caravan. The commander gives the command to start. Each scout has reactive lighting cartridges. I usually take two. Powerful 40-millimeter charges require a guide when firing. You place the body of the cylindrical charge along the barrel of the machine gun, clasp it with your palm and press it to it. Galvanized base rests against the protruding part of the weapon on the shank. A jerk of a kapron cord, and a burning torch thrown five hundred meters upwards, descending on a parachute, illuminates the battlefield for a few seconds. The firing angle of the ROP is important. Forty, sixty degrees - and the terrain around the target will be highlighted. In one of the first night battles, having received a command, I sent a charge over myself, thus highlighting the position of the group. This suspended our fire for a few seconds. Everyone had to bend their heads behind the folded timbers of the parapet.
All elements of my equipment have their own place strictly allocated to them and are arranged in a certain sequence. With my eyes closed, I can find the item I need. I try not to change this accumulated order. The furious transience of a battle in ambush, the suddenness of its beginning rarely give a chance to correct a lost opportunity.
Company Chief Ensign Yajan brought a dry ration he received from the food warehouse. Unpack the boxes, sort their contents. Canned meat, condensed milk, lump sugar, chocolate, biscuits we use during the exit. Packs of concentrated soup, seasoning, tea, dry fuel tablets are left in the arrangement.
Now I will do water. By experience, I’m sure enough two flasks. Rather, it can do. The yard is late January, night temperatures are negative. In the mountains, even here, in the very south of Afghanistan, in some places there is snow, it will be far beyond zero. In the afternoon, at noon, plus five degrees. The drop is very big, the stress for the body is strong, but it does not need additional amount of liquid. All the day before the intelligence exit I am trying to get drunk for the future. Every hour I drink a liter of drink from a camel's thorn brewed in boiling water.
In addition to the special raincoat “Rain”, half of which can be inflated, isolating the body from ice stones, I take a thin blanket of camel hair and a short piece of camouflage net only to cover the mines. In a capterka I get a mountain uniform: a woolen sweater, high, knee-high woolen socks, canvas overalls, a jacket with a hood. In addition to it - a set of winter field uniforms. Cotton-lined trousers for the march time I straightened the top of the satchel with the help of ribbon straps. I put a warm jacket on myself; I do not fasten buttons on it in order to leave free access to the breastplate and to make it easier to quickly throw it off if necessary. I shod in army boots with high berets, on my head - a soft, warmed landing helmet. The short gathering is over, the mining subgroup is waiting for the team about advancing to the place of preparation of the entire reconnaissance group.
The region to which the reconnaissance group of the third company of the 173-th separate special forces detachment is located is one hundred kilometers strictly to the north of Kandahar. Shan-Vali-Kot County is a mountainous region. Massive spurs alternate with small hills. The area is sparsely populated. The distances between the villages are large. Dirt roads. The landing site is extremely remote from the battalion. Therefore, the method of delivery of special forces in the area only air.
For thirty minutes, a helicopter unit consisting of two Mi-8s with a landing force on board and two fire support helicopters moves into the interior of Afghanistan. Inside the transport vehicle is warm. We are sitting in folding seats along the sides. On the dural floor in the center of the transport cabin among our satchels, leaning on the reclining bipods, there are two Kalashnikov machine guns. A powerful, agile machine gun with a target range of up to one and a half kilometers will allow us, if necessary, to restrain the enemy at medium and long distances. Melee eliminates safe evacuation and limits the use of aviation. Her support is necessary to repel the attacks of many times superior forces of militants. PKM is an easy-to-use, reliable, reliable weapon. His work cools down the fervor of even the hottest fighters for the faith. Tape feed allows intensive firing at tense moments of the fight. Without him, the special forces in the mountains of Afghanistan, nowhere! I do not let go of personal weapons. Placing the rifle between your legs, resting the folded butt on the floor, hold the barrel with your hand.
Twilight is coming. Now everything is shaky. The horizon was eroding haze, the mountains around us are clearly visible. The contrast of the colors of the slopes increases, the beige shades change to bright pink. The failures of the gorges are filled with inky darkness. In a few minutes we will be landed on the territory of the enemy, where everything will be against us.
Ambush with the move
Roaring multi-ton machine hung above the surface at the height of human growth. I have time to note that high, I jump off the edge, I hear the crackle of the backpack straps, but I don’t feel any impact. I force myself to move forward immediately. Hiding behind a large stone, made for shooting. Comrades occupy all-round defense. Half an hour after landing we wait for the onset of complete darkness. In this wilderness, it is unlikely that the sound of the helicopter was heard and our landing was spotted.
The commander of the group, Senior Lieutenant Alexander Parshin is a tall, athletic physique, a well-trained, experienced and self-confident officer, with a fluffy hat of hair, even in the cold he walks with his head uncovered. Muscovite, he has a great sense of humor. This is confirmed by a scarf of the Spartak football club wound around its neck. Now he and the senior patrol of the night binoculars inspect the plateau, on which we have to move. Cold, from the mouth during exhalation knocks steam. The sky finally turned black. At the command of the watch came forward. After waiting for him to cover the first section and give a permissive signal - the radio station will quietly squeak twice, - Alexander takes the group to the valley.
I try to keep closer to the authorities during the march. If the officer does not give specific instructions on the order of movement, I occupy a place in the core of the group, immediately after the radio operators. January weather is bad, the sky is overcast. Low clouds cover the stars. The night is especially dark.
Lieutenant on a plateau leads us to the road. Stretched along the front for a hundred meters, we sit down in a shallow dry channel. On the installation of mines and do not think. You can clearly hear the rumbling hum of working engines. This is going caravan. Cars wading between the hills and winding along the serpentine are still hidden from us, but the sound is approaching. I am preparing for a fire attack. I take off my warm jacket. I take out of the satchel three equipped stores and three packs of ammunition, spread them on top of the backpack. On the bib, I take off the soft loops from the wooden puckles of the zipper pockets for grenades. Check if there is interference in the sector for shooting. I try on the barrel of the machine gun on the breastwork and lead them left and right. I will shoot from my knees. To do this, I clear the place in front of me, with my palms I feel the surface of the earth around me, move aside the encountered stones. All I'm ready. I am made, butt butts against shoulder.
Rays of light headlights burst from the maze of hills in the valley. The lorry slowly moves along us, in two minutes the second one crawls onto the mound. Once on the open area, drivers extinguish the dipped headlights. Inside the cabs it is dark, only the flickering light of the cigarette being lighted reveals their presence. No security.
The commander gives the enemy to be drawn into the sector of defeat, waiting for the tail machine to catch up with the right flank. In the deep sound of diesel engines, metallic notes are distinguishable. Two large silhouettes are now opposite us. On the background of the hills, they seem to be big dark blocks. The fire!
I hit the cab with single shots very quickly. Keeping both eyes open, I aim intuitively at the trunk. Having shot the store, for a second, bending down to the ground, I reload the machine gun, straighten it up and send the charge after charge back to the machine. Now I am moving my fire on the engine. The task is to prevent the transport from continuing. I am changing the shop - and again I hit the cabin. Four Kalashnikov machine guns of the reconnaissance group fire short, three or four rounds, in bursts. Powerful PCM, suppressing any desire for resistance, flashing through the casing of machines. The charges, falling into the steel brake discs and engine parts, sparks, leaving ricochets to the sides and upwards. The fire does not stop until each of the scouts have shot three or four stores. There is no resistance, transport costs.
Parshin abruptly gives the command to withdraw.
Everything is calm and controlled depart. One hundred, two hundred meters. Having rebuilt, the group rushes to the mountain with all its feet. Mission accomplished.
Our refuge is a narrow, low, but dominant in height ridge. Its one end is directed to the road, the ridge itself leaves it. Five hundred meters from the car, it will allow us to control the approaches to the transport confidently from the slide, if the “spirits” have a desire to fight off the caravan. The slopes are steep, you can climb up only from the ends. The upper part of the ridge is narrow, five meters wide.
Now you need to dig in. The first half hour we work non-stop. Hurry up. With a knife of a scout I cleave surprisingly soft soil, with my palms folded in my hands, scoop up clay and lay it on the parapet. The broad blade rested against the stone, if only not the plate. I dig in an obstacle, I find the edge. Great, just a boulder. The speed of digging into the ground pleases. Today there are three miners; in an hour we tear off a trench that is one meter deep. Such a safe haven I had to arrange for myself for the first time. And it pleases.
While we were preparing ourselves a shelter, the wind rose. Light on top, heightened with height, he dispersed low clouds. The moon and the bright stars illuminated the surroundings. From our positions clearly visible silhouettes of trucks. Two large black boulders.
The senior lieutenant collects an inspection team: a machine gunner, two scouts, two miners and himself. Explains the nomination procedure. Appoints the senior of the special forces, remaining on top. Explains the order of their actions in case we have to take the fight at the machines. The task of the security subgroup is to communicate with the battalion to radio operators, to report that the subgroup was ambushed. To fighters - by fire of small arms to cut off the enemy from us. The calculation of the automatic grenade launcher gives specific instructions - to work on our flanks, to prevent the environment, to give the opportunity to retreat to the mountain and rise to the shelter.
Midnight. We go down light. The machine gunner has one cartridge belt of one hundred fifty charges. I have six equipped shops in a bib and one in a machine gun, four F-1 grenades. Powerful heavy "efka", in my opinion, is universal. And, if it came to throwing grenades, it is irreplaceable by any other type.
In the summer and autumn, the battalion used the RGO mountain grenade, which had a contact fuse and triggered after a throw when it touched an obstacle. But it is difficult to use - you need to throw according to certain rules, giving the brush a spin, so the fighters neglected it. Later, the unwelcome novelty for massive complaints was removed from service. The offensive grenade RGD was not considered by the special forces seriously.
We start inspection with a tail wagon. The truck is an old unit with a handicraft cabin, probably the first post-war releases. Here, in Afghanistan, the stable name “Barbukhaika” stuck behind him. The protective long metal casing of the engine compartment is crowned with a three-beam Mercedes-Benz star. The doors are wide open. They are self-made, made of wood, covered with carvings, the edges are covered with thin sheet metal. The sofa in the cockpit is sheathed in satin brocade, on the overhangs of fringe fabric. The entire back wall above the back is covered with stickers with Arabic texts. A small windshield is divided in half by a metal rack. Ethnic music sounds softly inside the cabin, the LEDs of the radio are poured in time with the melody. On the passenger side, the handle mounted on the torpedo is suspended by a Kalashnikov belt. The second is put on the open butt in the corner behind the driver's seat. There are no owners, there are no traces of blood in the cabin. According to the skill with which they left the dangerous place, sacrificing weapons, and by how competently, hiding under the body of the car under fire, withdrew without loss, we can conclude - experienced devils!
The high boards allowed a large body to be tightly hammered - bags, boxes, baskets are piled on top of each other, climbing above the cabin. Two special forces climb inside. Raking up goods, trying to get to the bottom, looking for weapons, hidden under things. Objects disturbing them drop. I took a position at the rear side, hiding behind the frame. To in case of danger cover them with fire.
When falling from a blow, a plywood box bursts and cigarette blocks are poured out of it. Next falls out a large wicker basket filled with oranges. In the back of such containers with a dozen with several hundred kilograms of fruit. No weapons. It became clear: this is a truck merchants. During the war, there is a curfew on the territory of Afghanistan. The movement of vehicles is prohibited from eight in the evening to five in the morning, no stops and checks. The intruder risks falling under fire from a stationary post without warning, or may be ambushed by GRU special forces.
The inspection is over. The second truck is inconvenient for us. Fifty meters from it, small hills begin, their slopes are cut by shallow ravines. They are easy to hide the enemy. Senior Lieutenant prefers not to risk wasted, gives a command to leave.
Contacting the radio with the top, he reports that we are climbing. Near me lies a voluminous soft bale. The sidewall opened the knife, I see that it is packed with hundreds of bags rolled into tight tubes. I pull out one, open and collect the fruits lying around under my feet.
Two subgroups screener moved to the mountain. Took a position, located on the edge of a steep slope of a low hill. We are moving along the steppe, focusing on their elevation. We move quickly, we pass under the cliff, around the mound. The machine-gunners, catching up with us, close the movement. The entire subgroup immediately begins to rise. All the time I am haunted by the idea that the “guides” have not gone far, but, hiding, wait, assessing the situation. The body is tense in anticipation of shots in the back.
Upstairs, we are greeted with undisguised joy comrades. Although there are few trophies, all the scouts are pleased that we are safe and the inspection is completed.
The trench of the miners is in the middle of the position of the special forces, stretching along the entire narrow ridge. Descending into it, I sincerely wonder how the squad leader Igor Tkachenko set it up during our one-hour absence. Now the trench looks like a small fortress. A belt of huge boulders is laid around the perimeter. The stone parapet lifts the shelter another fifty centimeters. To secretly dig up such a reliable refuge on a rock, without using a special tool, only with a knife and hands, is a lot of work and a lot of luck. Get us in it can only be a direct hit from a mortar. Around the steppe, and the "spirits" will need to really try to set it in the zone of inaccessibility of our fire.
I place my machine gun, putting it diagonally at the corner of a trench. The wind rose, very cold. The whole sky littered with bright twinkling stars. The night will be frosty. You need to prepare to survive the temperature below zero in the morning. I put on warm cotton pants from a winter special set of field uniform. I inflate the three sections of "Rain." I sit on them reclining, under the shoulders I place a backpack of a paratrooper. Wrapped in a woolen blanket. The remaining half of the special Cape is hiding from above. Having taken some ice-cold water from a flask, I briefly tell the sergeant about the search.
- The car is on fire! - I hear a muffled exclamation from a neighboring trench.
Hastily throw off the edge of the cape. Having destroyed my bed, I reach the edge of the trench. Leaning down on the rocks, peering down. Black smoke is piling up from an advanced car. With every minute it increases. In places of smoke, orange flames appear in some places. With a loud bang, the car flashes. Obviously, during the battle, the flammable contents of the mobile shop were set on fire. The fuel flowing from the damaged Barbukhaika fuel system did not leave a chance for the fire to die down. In the middle of the night in the province of Kandahar, in the district of Shang-Vali-Kot, a car burns on the northern road for an hour. The commander requested an evacuation.
Waiting for aviation, an officer with binoculars examines distant peaks, identifies dangerous areas. The helicopter unit arrived at dawn. Two twenty-foursters, having received instructions from Parshin, immediately attack the distant approaches to the road. Making an entry into the fells, they strike uncontrollable rockets on the tops causing concern. Twenty-two scouts who completed the mission without a loss, quickly descend from the mountain. We leave to the "Mandeh" - the location of our location during the night battle. Under their feet among the small stones are placers of spent cartridges.
Transport Mi-8 land on the road immediately behind the machines. One of the sides immediately stalls. Main screw stopped rotating. The ends of the long all-metal blades sway up and down by inertia. The pilot leaves the lead helicopter, heads towards Parshin, this is very strange. Five minutes the officers are discussing something. What happened? The senior lieutenant returns to us, sets the task. One of the sides is damaged, so now only one “eight” will go to the battalion. She will take eleven fighters. The remaining special forces will provide security for the repair brigade of aviation technicians. The mechanics who will replace the faulty unit have already departed from the Kandahar airfield. After repair the helicopter evacuates us.
Lust for life
Seeing the retreating transport helicopter, Tkachenko and I climb a small mound. On the next peak, a hundred meters from us, I see a second pair of scouts. Greetings with a wave of your hand. My squad leader is from Dnepropetrovsk. Two months later, his life expires. Changes during the ambush make the sergeant noticeably nervous. This kind of anxiety, when feelings begin to dominate you, absorbs your will. Igor is my friend. I respect him, so I try to calm him down. Seeing that he is waiting for support, I begin to think out loud.
- It's light now. We are ten, with us commander. We are covered from the air, winding giant circles, two combat vehicles over the area. Helicopters will leave only for the replacement of a new pair. The terrain is visible for several kilometers around, the enemy will suddenly not be able to approach. The area is remote, there are no large villages and fortified areas near. "Guests" wait for nowhere.
What Igor feels is completely incomprehensible to me. Thoughts about the end of the service do not visit me. My war will last another year. Whole year! When every day is endlessly long and may be the last. A year on the limit of power ...
In January, the battalion had a lot of work. This month is the third way out for me. Being involved, you cease to pay attention to experiences. Fighting exit becomes normal work.
Here, in Afghanistan, everything is very fragile, there is no stability, it is a twilight zone. Fantastic beauty of the natural landscape does not belong to us, here we are strangers. Attractive, bright picture of an exotic country in a split second is distorted and becomes the cause of aggression. Time from constant voltage stretches, everything is blurry. This is a hostile territory. Danger comes from everywhere, everything is deceptive ...
The Mi-24 that replaced the Mi-8 brought with them the transport "eight". Mechanics who arrived in it started repairing. From our positions to them three hundred meters. Technicians are constantly moving between two helicopters. The reason to stay an extra hour on this remote plateau is none of us.
Winter Afghan morning. Light frost pleasantly invigorates. Sunny. Strong wind drives rare clouds across the sky. In this light, the colors of the landscape stretching before me are very contrasting and bright. The slopes of the hills are bare, not a single blade of grass - untrodden, unfit for life places. I take out a tiny fifteen-gram bar of chocolate and, removing the wrapper, enjoy it with pleasure. Igor longingly looks ahead. From the next hill to us goes deuce. Parshin on the radio station transmitted an order for us. The machine gunner and one of the miners to remain on the hill, the rest down - to load the captured property into the helicopter. With undisguised joy, Tkachenko is going hastily to descend.
The fighter who has now become my partner, is Tajik by nationality. Calm, physically strong, who grew up in the countryside, from childhood he was accustomed to stress. There is a conversation between us. Continuing the theme of the house, I ask him. Special Forces responds sluggishly.
“I'm not in a hurry to go home,” seeing the surprise on my face, continues: “Where are you from?”
- From the Far East.
- What have you got there?
- Like what?! Ocean, Cupid, mountain rivers, forests, age-old taiga! .. - The machine gunner waits patiently for me to speak out. Emotions subsided, I shut up.
- And I have ... here it is. - A nod of the head indicates the landscape in front of us Tajik. “I live five hundred kilometers from here ...”
And so the damaged helicopter started, the rotor blades, unwinding, merged into a disk. The group commander orders to descend, we react to the command instantly. I take a farewell look at the hills of Shang-Vali-Kot County, they are also deserted. We start the descent, we move fast, we almost run. I want one thing - rather leave this valley. We are approaching a transport helicopter, our backpacks are already loaded. The officer is waiting for us near the landing ladder, gestures to hurry up. And here we are inside. The salon is packed with the surviving contents of the Barbukhayka. The helicopter pilots downloaded everything they could. Folding seats are pressed to the sides, the whole floor is laid with bags. Scouts are located on top of the bales. Parshin slams the sliding door shut behind him. The car takes off the ground. Accelerates above the surface along the plateau parallel to the road, having reached the destroyed trucks, goes up sharply, gaining height. In the portholes, we see the retreating skeletons of burnt cars. A few minutes later, the northern road is lost sight of the hills of Shan-Vali-Kot County.