ArtOfWar. Творчество ветеранов последних войн. Сайт имени Владимира Григорьева

Прокудин Николай Николаевич
Do your best to survive. Romantic

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    4th chapter.

  Chapter 4. 'Jalalabad operation'
   Next week the young soldiers were instructed by officers. Mechanics and gun-layers made BMPs comfortable for fighting: put ammos into, checked, and mended engines as well as performance of BMP.
   One morning the regiment commander suggested having a talk to officers,
   'Officers! The day after tomorrow we're going to have combat operations in Jalalabad. The regiment has never been there, so this territory is not explored yet. All tasks will be given tomorrow, but today you are to take maps and get ready for action. Commanders! Take care of everything, that is to put ammunition, food for three days, make up lists of soldiers to file in the army headquarters.'
   There was a great fuss! Soldiers, like fast ants, started carrying things and ammunition. Lists were made up. The company was divided into some parts per eight soldiers in each. They went by choppers.
   The second zampolit of regiment, having the nickname Mussolini, called all the officers to instruct them,
   'Guys! Take these leaflets and give it to the natives, also use rockets full of them; write dope-sheets, set active men, have meetings and instructions.'
   What is better sheet or shit? Why? He didn't love this idea as if it was something fucking him. It was not high time to have meetings and draw dope-sheets. If I tried to make even MINIMUM of what he was saying to us, the company commander and all officers would fuck me. If I tried to make A THIRD of what he was saying to us and I were them, I would strike me in the face. If I tried to make ALL, I know, my warmates would kill me. The worst thing was irrelevance of these actions for anyone, moreover, for Mussolini himself. Then Grisha Artukhin, Tsekhmistruk (Party organizer in the battalion), and political propagandist ordered to prepare all documents.
   Melenty Mitrashu, the company Two executive officer, was an experienced man. He didn't produce so many sounds.
   'Guys! Don't make yakitty-yak! Mussoliev realizes, he is an asshole for us, but he can't change anything. Let's have a dinner. Then we'll report everything, we did. Dinner is the most important thing for every soldier. I had a real starvation in Panjshir last year. Practically all new-comers were ill, because of food lack. Many of them gained dystrophia or hepatitis. One of soldiers got out the chopper, having a massive bag, a rifle, and the stuff of everything, so he had to climb some eight hundred meters. From the bottom, sightseeing upwards was hard. So, this guy used the hook just as he wanted. Glamor puss! Death at once is the best way to survive!
   When some guys died of exhaustion, the medical board arrived without delaying. All soldiers went close to the fighting vehicles to have measurements of height and body weight. I was greatly reduced; my combat garment was bad without identifying badge and stars, underwear was out of the question. My height was fixed to one hundred and eighty nine centimeters, I had weight of sixty five kilos. The nurse addressed the medic, 'He is coming short of twenty kilos.'
  He got stressed, 'This soldier is delivering to hospital now! Chopper! Quick! How's his name?'
   'I'm senior lieutenant Mitrashu. My name is Melenty Alexandrovich Mitrashu. I'm the company zampolit.'
   The medic (colonel in rank) scratched his head and pronounced, 'Okay, nothing to be scared of. Fall back the company!'
   So it goes. I wish I had time for lying in, taking tasty food, sleeping off, holding some nurse... Eating is of primary importance in military life.'
   'Let's go to have a mouth,' Meleschenko gave a result.
   'Okay,' Melenty agreed with him. 'Moreover, stresses make soldiers mad. Heh! I took part in one Panjshir operation, so I was an unexperienced soldier, I'd just left the Soviet Union and started serving in the battalion Two. It always had raids. Later, the battalion guarded Bagram zelenka, but that time it always had raids. Yeah! One soldier ran mad - he left his things and went to join some gang of dookhs. The company commander tried to stop him, however, that soldier gave him a squirt without saying a word. All the other soldiers positioned higher in the mountains, so it took some time to walk down the hill; we stanched this company commander's wound, carried him to be loaded into the chopper. But the soldier was running to the valley quicker and quicker. Someone targeted 'Grads'. Missile systems fell properly. Then his body was taken to Kabul and said the relatives, he was killed by dookhs. The company commander survived. He was operated on inside, but no military service for him any more. Heh! He was a kind-hearted person.'
   'Melenty, how did you join this battalion?' I wondered.
   'Have you ever heard the name of Maslenkin?'
   'He was killed. He is often discussed, as if some tragedy happened to him. Nothing good of these talks.'
   'Listen to my story, boy. Last December Maslenkin went to Afghanistan, quite in a month he had a raid in Pagman. One day he was in charge of ten soldiers, leaving the post to take some water in the nearest kishlak. Nobody can say anything exactly, how it came. The company commander reported, he let them to do this, but others said, that Maslenkin wanted to visit kishlak to kill a lamb, because sergeants persuaded him.
   Kishlak was rather far away from that place we took. Moreover, it was a dead area. They faced to dookhs. A few of ammos in breastbags, because some of soldiers got just one magazine case, didn't help them. The battalion had to make different tasks. All platoons took a great distance from each other. One sergeant succeeded in running along the canal. He shot back. All the rest were killed. Lieutenant Maslenkin was massacred.
   In a week the Soviet soldiers came back to kishlak and killed all the natives, razing houses to the ground. Nobody could change anything. The dookhs deformed soldiers, but Maslenkin got most of all. There it is. This was his first raid.
   So, guys, take care! Gain experience! New comers are always a real tidbit for the dookhs. If you start well, you'll survive in Afghanistan. In some time you'll get a replacement.'
   Melenty Alexandrovich told us this sad story, before having combat operations. That was useful for us.
  * * *
   The chopper ground positioned behind the food stores. I could see these vehicles only in films, but in Afghanistan I used it once for flying from Kabul to Bagram to register in special paper, I was a communist.
   Platoon tasks were given just before the combat operation. Secret work! The officers pointed the maps, making up some groups of eight soldiers to land. After waiting for three hours, the choppers came to us. Boarding and taking off everywhere... The reconnaissance platoon of our battalion was divided into two parts, I joined one of them.
   We were trying to board. My hair was billowing in the wind and dust covered my eyes. Bending helped us to approach the helicopter.
   When we took off, somebody told us, we didn't have any parachutes to safety. I was watching the Earth with my heart in my mouth. I was scared of flying. No people to observe, but height in the clouds. Passing some time, I started to have meditations.
   Bringing down the plane or no? If it happens, what will we do? Will we be able to land? Nobody wants to face death. But I don't believe it today. Anyone maybe killed at any moment (time of peace is full of accidents, like unhappy drinking, brick falling on a head, or heart attack).
   Nothing to think of, I know. The experienced soldiers also did get nervous.
   At first the battalion landed by helicopters.
   The reconnaissance officer Gostenkov couldn't find a vacant seat for himself, so he had to take place on the helicopter floor. He hung machine-gun belts all over his body. Holding the machine-gun and putting on a sailor's vest, he looked like an anarchist.
   The plane started reducing altitude.
   Helicopters, following each other, landed along the narrow river in canyon. Suddenly my chopper turned out to take up position in the sky above the valley, like a green island among the gloomy cliffs.
   Fighting was going on, at the same time as we deplaned. All soldiers dropped into it without delaying. Nobody knew where the dookhs held a position, but we tried firing right and left. The battalion took up positions under the cover of massed intense fire, melting the valley.
   The company commander was glad to see me,
   'Well, ranger! The dookhs are leaving us along the river. Ten of them have just ridden. The situation is the same as in the film 'White sun of the desert' gyus had. Who is Sukhov? I believe, the battalion commander. Hell, where is Vereschagin and his gun? Ha-ha!'
   Mortars fired deep into zelenka without any tripods. We didn't know what to do, but infantry men moved further - passing bushes, hills, stones one by one. Bullets sang their songs, ricocheting quickly. We saw dead bodies of dookhs as well as dead animals.
   We've got some wounded men. The same I can say about the company Two. Some guys have made a move to the choppers, being greately hurt they couldn't fight any more.
   The battalion is right here. Reconnaisance battalion and regiment Eighty One took up positions along the canyon backs. Raiders did near us.
   We left some uncontested piece of land and moved to kishlak, where reconnaissance soldiers worked. Some dookhs took up positions in ravine of the kishlak corner. They couldn't go, so fought to a finish.
   What about me? This is my second raid, but I haven't killed a dookh yet. I fired any points what would come of it, however, as the others did.
   The battalion commander Vasiliy Ivanovich had a talk with Kavun, soon the latter returned gloomy as if he worried about something.
   'Well, we've got into scrape! Fucking war! Dookhs are here, number of them is of five times more. Shuravi never went this ass-hole. Zampolit! You and three soldiers will organize defense near the farthest house, standing on the hill. No sleep at all! You are providing combat security. Also guys from the company Two and company Three will help you. Don't shoot each other! Let some soldiers from the platoon Two join you. So, good luck! Don't make fires! Have a camouflage!'
   'When should we leave? I'd like to eat something,' I said.
   'You must do it now or we don't have much time of the sun yet. Quick! Have a look-see round the place! When you have fighting patrol, you'll eat canned foods. Go!'
   High-grade path made it way near fences of stones. My group moved further. Mountain top was reached as we had twilights. Kishlak was plainly visible. Lights, smoke, running about this place were everywhere. We were watching and eating. Our food wasn't great, except biscuits and unwarmed cereal with small meat pieces.
   When the sun was down, it got dark as if somebody covered us. The wind was blowing, which made air not so cool, but really cold, later growing into wet. The soldiers and me didn't feel warm. We couldn't make any changes by means of peacoats. So there! August was finishing, but the weather was awful: too hot in daytime, it was icy cold at night. Everything was like in the saying 'Out of the frying pan and into the fire'. I didn't have any peacoat, because I didn't guess I would need it, so I had to cover myself by undone sleeping bag.
   We were trembling with cold overnight. Morning dew made us getting wet.
   While the new day was breaking, we went down to welcome other soldiers. We looked like bears with sore heads. Unfortunately, we didn't have any time to warm and sleep. The regiment commander roared, like insomniac bears did, and ordered all to discharge tasks. As soon as I said hello to the officers, I got to the tail. The company commander ordered me to put spurs to soldiers, detaching themselves. Medic and me finished the tail. As always Bandera mumbled something. Soldiers and officers were going to divide in some groups to front tasks. Artillery fired at canyon, helicopters took up positions in the sky, and they put NURSes down, hitting out at a random. It helped to know something about present dookhs. How far away we had to walk!
   For half a day the company was climbing the mountains under the hard sun. Everyone was a dirty and sweat pig. All soldiers' cottons were wet, because they had to carry guns. The most difficult thing was to pack machinegun belt, mines, and 'mukhas'.
   I was okay for the first hour, but moving further showed soldiers to be exhausted, that's why I had to help them. I took a machinegun around the neck, then somebody's grenade machine gun in my hands. I really wanted to shoot away. But no dookhs at all! So we had to go some hours without stopping.
   Close to dinner time we approached poky little houses, which were half-ruined by artillery guns. Long halt we had! Lucky we were!
   'Officers, front and center!' Kavun called us. 'Gaffers! I've got a task for you. Drive a place for, find guns and ammo. Combat engineers will do everything. You stay still. The engineering commander, Shipilov (senior lieutenant in rank), will work here. He is an experienced guy. His last combat operations traces can be seen on his face,' Kavun smiled. 'You should follow all his instructions.'
   A massive square-faced man had an impressive dignity. His chin was knifed by scar, while forehead and nose were wounded by shrapnels. His face was of mulberry color, I guess, covered this way after powder effect or windy weather. He was a chunky deep-chested guy.
   'Gentlemen! If you don't want to have got a face as I do, stay still, please. Combat engineers will be looking for guns and the stuff of everything, you just must provide trouble-free work. Moreover, I hope you to help taking it out.'
   'One more thing is that you must take all guns and ammo out of this very place, because it's the best for helicopters. They will be able to board, if we find. We must set to!' The company commander cried.
   Soon we were satisfied with first results. Shipilov was a real craftsman. He found air-tight cartridge containers and ammunition box in the hiding among stones. The platoon one unmasked heavy machine gun in the shed as well as more than one of charges for grenade guns, some hundreds of cartridges for the machine gun, more than a hundred of 'italiankas'. One house kept mortar and hundreds of mines for it.
   We reported these findings, so the battalion commander and regiment commander squealed with delight. We were lucky that day! Soldiers found a storehouse, where sleeping bags were kept. These things couldn't be said to warm well, but they were light foam. They got to be better as the company commander and me had duvets. Bingo! We found two hundreds sleeping bags, foodstuff, medical supplies. We got deactivated war trophies. Soon some guys came to take sleeping bags for the regiment command post. They called it a day. Also the other soldiers came to load food and sleeping bags for the battalion. Medics put buttons, pulvis, cotton bandages. One of them (praporschik in rank) Aisenberg, nicknamed as 'Papa', approached us; he was accompanied by aid men. Hundreds of blood substitute packets found their places among all medical supplies. These packets were produced in Italy, the thing of the same use produced in the Soviet Union, had a different look. It was bottled into sizes of five hundred grams, which anybody could break. Application of the Soviet blood substitutes usually would come, if a person had to overhang this size.
   'How clever they are!' Praporschik shook his head. 'Medic puts acus into belly, but the blood substitute packet puts under back, so liquid can outpour. Nobody could invent better as receiving fire, while medic, asshole, must stand with packets.'
   'Yes, that's true! The Afghan soldiers put acus into the wounded dookh's belly and leave for him some packets in reserve. This dookh stays in cave alone, or maybe some place, covered by dirty grass. As far as some dookh got better, his friends come to take him away or he can leave himself if he is strong enough,' Stepan stepped into conversation. 'We found one such guy in Panjshir, he had a lot of blood substitute packets. He had ill luck! No drugs to help! I made a submachine gun burst. Second one helped to kill him. Vaska used his magazine, because dookhs had fired the Soviet BMP, which had a lot of our soldiers.'
   Stepan groaned and lighted a cigarette.
   'Stepa, you can't give a first aid, but can cut anybody into sections,' Kavun made a remark, smiling.
  * * *
   From the command post a forward air gunner came in a great hurry. His guard fired marking smoke pots to order choppers.
   In half an hour two helicopters MI-8 landed, each of them took different field stories in cultivation. Soldiers, being quick as a wink, packed the helicopters with trophies. They carried a DShK into also some extra tubes, some air-tight cartridge containers, a mortar gun as well as long-used guns 'Bur' with cartridges. Helicopters MI-24 in the sky capped the soldiers and officers. A couple of choppers took off, giving place to other ones to be packed by 'italiankas', some cartridges and grenades. Another chopper gave us a chance to see an air technician approaching us.
   'Commander! What to take away?'
   'Look, how much of everything we've got! So, something like one hundred of air-tight cartridge containers for DShKs, forty rounds of ammunition for RPG, recoilless weapons, RSes, and a lot of mortar projectiles.'
   'Damn! All this stuff is still here?'
   'Quite a number!'
   'What about yum-yum?'
   'You're kidding, boy! We've got just one candy box and a jam barrel. But we're bad boys. Nothing for you!'
   'Guys! Give us something!'
   'Okay! Ten bags of flour and five bags of sugar, also some bags of rice, one teabox. Carry all this food to the chopper!'
   So, the second crowd of helicoptermen went to us. They loaded a half of all we had.
   Two more choppers came in one and a half hour, but nobody was going to load ammunition. Instead of this, guys took different bags and boxes, medical supplies and sleeping bags - that was the last the battalion hadn't taken apart.
   Saying goodbye, the air technician approached us in a hurry to handshake,
   'Thanks, guys! The squadron is lucky today! The rest of all things must be broken. We won't visit any more.'
   'Will you do fine home brew?' Golubev gave a smile.
   'For sure! We've got no alchohol at all! See you later! If troubles, call us!'
   The choppers rolled back.
   The surface had enough ammunition.
   'What can we do?' Shipilov was interested in coming changes.
   'Stop shouting!' Kavun gave a cheek.
   'Captain! I didn't do it on purpose. There is no end of all ammunition, I've never faced. How to solve this problem?'
   'You've got some ideas?'
   'I suggest putting propelling charges into this pile of mortar projectiles, also putting all cartridges from air-tight containers there. Then we'll fire it. I'll put rounds, RSes, grenades into the strongest house to blow up leaving this place. Let it flying up!'
   'Okay, mole, run here!' the company commander said.
   Leaving the kishlak, soldiers piled all things, then they farced the strongest house by rounds.
   Fighting men opened different boxes, packs, containers; they wished to have tea, sugar, rice instead of canned goods.
   'Stepan! Where did you get tea?' I asked.
   'Oh, this tea is out of this world! Really!' the sergeant gave an answer.
   I scooped up a little tea, constituting small dark-green pieces like peppercorns,
   'Is this tea?'
   'Yeah, that's true. You'll try tasty tea soon.'
   There was a great amount of everything we couldn't take. This food was burnt. Stepan was careful to grind out drugs. We couldn't take all of them. It was too hard to carry.
   The company went ahead, but three mine-pickers under command of Shipilov stayed down.
   The house was sent up in flames, also strong fire seized ammunition. The rattle of gun fire brisked up, bombing was heard for about one hour and a half, while we were walking to stay overnight. The mine-pickers caught the company on the ridgeway. They deposited close to us. Everybody got tired, so guarding was accompanied by great wish to have a good night rest.
   In the morning the Battalion Management Board, the reconnaissance company, and regiment commander approached us with people.
   The regiment commander looked like a hippopotamus. He mopped his brow every minute. He was a forty-two year old fighting man with weight of one hundred and ten kilos. Climbing in the mountains was really hard for him. He was red as a beet. He was exhausted, so his lips and cheeks were trembling. He puffed like a grampus.
   'Vanya! Kavun! Water!' he sibilated. He company commander gave the lieutenant colonel a flask. He gulped three times and no more water.
   'Well done, guys! The company came to the top! Vanya will get the military medal 'Za Sluzhbu Rodine', Shipilov will get 'Orden Krasnoi Zvezdy', other officers and some soldiers fought for medals. Everybody will get some award. Excellent result is an example for the Soviet Army. It's topping!'
   Vanya Kavun was an open-hearted person, that's why he gave my water to the regiment commander, who wasted it with great pleasure. The regiment commander stepped further. After him we could see a strong soldier handing one large bag and two guns. He was an officer's orderly. He made a wry face for us and passed by.
   'This guy isn't lucky, you know! This Fat can hardly move. If he were wounded, the orderly wouldn't extricate this casualty. Heaven forbid! The regiment commander may return just by chopper in such things,' praporshchik Golubev smiled. 'As for me, it's easier to extricate because I'm a thin guy. However, I'm sure, it won't run to that. Sometimes I drink too much, and you are to transport me, but it never happens during the combat operations.'
   We were passed by new companies, which went to fulfill tasks. We stayed here, but the other soldiers were combing the territory. Shipilov didn't find any ammunition.
   While our company soldiers were suffering from the heat for two days, the battalion wasted time in the valley.
   We had this wonderful tea all round, which I'd never tried before the Afghan war and never after it.
   Boiling water made tea pellets break like beautiful flowers. They had nice fragrance. I got accustomed to this green tea, when I lived in Turkmenia. Perfect thing!
   After three days we made a move. The battalion was waiting for the company in a small kishlak. We took all things, like flour, rice, clothes, benches, mats outside the houses. I found a radio set, made in Great Britain, of fortyish years old or more. Rare object! This back-country offered the radio set to have listening every day. Probably, this was the only way for people to know world news. I had no idea what was happening around. How about the last match of Soviet Union football? Did 'Spartak' win 'Dynamo' (Kyiv)?
   I fixed the radio set on the duval, then walked along the street. Suddenly I heard submachine gun burst into radio. Dubino did this.
   'What are you doing, boy?'
   'I won't let them listen to propaganda, which is suggested by dookhs.'
   'They live in a state of savagery, but you do the same. You've never left your palm, because there was no any in Bulbenia. I think, your forefathers, or maybe you, have lived on some fir-tree recently.'
   'My forefathers? What do you mean?'
   'You won't catch this idea! Don't stuff your head! Get a move on, boy!'
   The mortar gunners found two horses, then put mortar launchers on their backs. Cunning fellows! I believe, change-over was going to last long. At least, the map said this. We were to climb mountains, go among rocks, after all have the hardest way to the fighting equipment, which stood along some riverbed. The way had fifteen kilometers. Before taking this journey, we ate all dry rations, now it was easy to move. Reconnaissance men and regiment officers traveled to the mountains first, but my company brought up the rear. While walking, we sometimes made stops along the road. The soldiers warmed themselves at the fire. They put baskets and mats into it, moreover one moment I visualized something familiar to me. I approached the fire and watched my duvet sleeping-bag there (it was made in Germany! European quality!). Some days ago the company commander introduced me a soldier, who had to help me in combat operations, as I had never had them. The name of this guy was Kornilov and he became my orderly. The company commander also had someone to help him, this was medic Stepan. Now Kornilov was standing near the fire, watching my valuable sleeping-bag.
   'What are you doing, son of a bitch?' I shouted like a madman.
   'I'm burning this sleeping bag, because I don't want it to be taken by dookhs,' the soldier looked at me grinning.
   'Why do you think so?' I asked him.
   'This sleeping bag had broken zip, so I made up my mind to bring a new sleeping bag out of all trophies. This old white bag is heavy to carry and too warm for sleeping. Another one, of green color, is easy to carry. It's much better!' the orderly (Uzbek in nationality) tried to make compliments.
   'Fuck! The platoon Two presented me an alien! What are you talking about? Hey! Have you ever thought of coming winter? White color means to use in winter! Do you take me?'
   The soldier couldn't say a word, he was ready to change place as he wanted to be far away from me. Sparks flew upwards, covering my sleeping-bag of nasty goose odor. Impressed me! The present, given to me by Alexeev on the very first day in Afghan, died. Damn! (After that I've never worked with any orderly).
   The company commander had direct steps to me. He watched fire and fucked everything in the world. He tapped on my shoulder, then turned away to call,
   'Let's go, you people! The platoon One will start, GPV will follow, then platoon Two and platoon Three respectively. Nick, Dubino, and Stepan will close. Move this way! No platoons will feed us, so dookhs will observe our step-back. Follow me!'
   The platoon commander Golubev did like mortar gunners, that is he put the mounting of 'Utes' and AGS on the other horse. The company was climbing the path till stopped in the center of this serpentinous road. Suddenly one of the horses fell from the mountain crest. The somersetting animal had some stone strikes, then she came to pieces.
   The battalion commander screamed in anger and cried blue murder. The squadron commander, a small, thin, fair-haired captain named Vasya Stepushkin, shrank into himself horror. After he had caught it, he started organizing mortar launcher out of the canon. I should say, two gunners fell there before the horse died.
   Soldiers hurried after us, taking the mortar launchers, on the very top of the mountain. Their shirts grew white because of sweating.
   Golubev had to make his horse free of gunners. Since that moment the mortar men and machine gunners started carrying heavy firepower equipment. While we were having a rest, the battalion commander reorganized traffic pattern. Battalion trains went first, followed by the company Two and the company Three, some mortar men joined with each company. The platoon One brought up the rear. We went close to the reconnaissance platoon. The battalion commander left with us.
   'He wants to become a hero. Like we are,' the company commander joked.
   At last all the steep terrain was over, we got high land. Here one could see a lambing barn and some stone building, which looked like a dig up, laid round by fence. At the entrance a woman stood with a suckler in arms, near her two more kids. A tall blue-eyed man with black beard positioned by the fence. He was a Pashtun. He welcomed us and offered some johnny-cakes. The company commander and me took one and broke in two. We shook hands with him and left.
   The native palmed the battalion commander's hands, waved to soldiers, crying something behind. As we were at the back of the hill, a shot was heard. At once woman's yield penetrated the air.
   The battalion commander turned, also Aisenberg did the same, together they run down.
   Kavun commanded to stop the platoon, so we could take up defensive dispositions. Podorozhnik was raving with anger and we could hear this.
   In ten minutes the reconnaissance platoon came, which was hurried by the battalion commander. Podorozhnik was boxing and kicking reconnaissance soldier for all the way. This was Tarchuk. Before we had the raid, the reconnaissance platoon got new soldiers; that guy, being a former member of special forces, asked to join with our company. So we were not against his wish. The company commander agreed. The senior lieutenant Pyzh got no idea about this Greek gift.
   'You're bastard! Mother fucker!' the battalion commander shouted like a madman.
   'He was not a man, but he was a dookh,' the soldier tried to explain again. He removed some blood from his nose and lips.
   'Was there any order to fire?'
   'When I served in special forces, every time leaving, we killed shehards, because they are together with dookhs.'
   'This is not special forces! Got you? This is the army battalion, moreover the battalion One, which is the bravest among others. You're son of a bitch!'
   The soldier kept silent. He looked out of the corners of his eyes. He was frightened because he didn't expect so turn-up.
   'Fucker! That man entertained us with a johny-cake, then shook hands with me. But you shot him in passing as if he was some doodley-shit. He had three kids, now they will die if hunger.'
   I can't catch the idea of shooting someone just for pleasure. Where did this monster come from? By the way, he was the lad of the village. This month he shot two people (one man and one woman). Did he do it for kicks or what? Real monster he was!
   'This bastard must carry the mortar-gun! Don't give him any gun or grenades. Instead of this put mortar bombs into his bag. Let him work! Fuck off!'
   The battalion commander burnt with anger, he got ready to kill this son of a bitch.
   'He is not particular about someone to fire. He can do it directing a kid or expectant mother. I believe, he loves war.'
   We were moving all the day, but I think, we did it for ages. Moreover, we had to go under fierce heat. Armored machines approached dry wash to meet us. The convoy had an accident last night. One BTR fell into the canyon, on the top of everything else, it had the tank battalion commander inboard. Two officers and two soldiers were lost, three others were traumatized. The devil for all!
   Then we walked for two days. Officers and soldiers had to eat, drawing back against the armor, making fire near the track pits. Dust was covering everything...
   The convoy snailed and fighting equipment tailed away for many kilometers. We were one of the last to leave this place. Different wagons were twisting a good deal and creeping like a big snake. But this strange thing made lumber, leaving dust on the road.
   The company commander suggested me having a snack. So I had to follow his BMP at a run. The fighting equipment stopped without cutting the engine, because something stalled.
   'What a power! What are you thinking of all, zampolit?' the company commander asked me.
   'I'm impressed!'
   'Impression? Look here! We have got two supply and support brigades, REB brigade, signal regiment, artillery regiment, artillery brigade, signal battalion... Outragous! Headquarters everywhere! A lot of shelters and cabs. As we have to fight in the mountains, four undermanned battalions go. We are always less, so we have to call aircraft or call for fire. We may be lucky for keeping alive by means of the Soviet fighting equipment.'
   'The killed Afghan man is constantly on my mind. If we kill someone for no particular reason, what kind of international help we can give? I think of him shaking my hands and giving a johny-cake. He had soft eyes. He had a wife and some kids.'
   'Lucky you are! You could watch him at first hand, but if helicopters and airplanes bomb or leave NURSes, so kishlak will get destroyed with all kids, old men, and khanumas. Nobody wants to know whether dookhs live there. Look around you! Ruins are here! Many people inhabited this place, new tombs have been dug near the houses. The Soviet soldiers have been giving the international help for five years, so, I believe, the Afghans have got about one million tombs.'
   'Don't tell me!'
   'This is true! This war is done for nothing. Soldiers must train. They can do it here. The Americans kept the field in Vietnam, but the USSR has combat operations in Afghanistan.'
   'We can't have got war forever.'
   'But still. Who can stop war? Generals and politicians want to keep front going. War is easy to start, however, hard to come to finish. Guerrilla conflict needs particular efforts to be done. We have to fight them.'
   'I didn't expect this. I'm a volunteer as in the thirties of this century some guys went to Spain.'
   'No, stop! We are at war with all Afghanistan!'
   The convoy went stretching for many kilometers. Vanguard of the movement had arrived in Kabul, but the others continued moving. The Soviet soldiers confronted firing from mujahedeens. These sallies could be done just by madmen. Our fighting equipment was very powerful. Artillery and airplanes protected us.
  * * *
   Real mess set in the regiment. Military orders replaced each other. We didn't know what to do, that is to unload or no, relax or no! Actually it was high time to prepare decoration lists, to have washing and cleaning.
  * * *
   The soldiers piled their rucksacks, put guns into the store-room, however, no ammos there. We expected new combat operations. Everybody got nervous in the command staff, because of definite instructions absence. The regiment commander ordered to prepare all documents for the future military medals of the company commander and combat engineer, some officers and soldiers would have to be also distinguished. Clerks were writing all night. The company commander shone with happiness.
   'Wow! I've been seeing service in this battalion for half-year and I'm on the top of the world to get a reward. Somebody says, I'm a strange man, wolf boy, but I'm recommended for the decoration 'Za Sluzhbu Rodine', a third class order. Nobody has got such decoration in the battalion. Well done! All fresh meat will get medals 'Za Otvagu'. It is not so bad! They've been serving for a month, that's too short period of time to get medals. Okay, I'll drink some white wine, but you should put everything in order. If we know commands tomorrow, we'll hand back ammunition.
   Putting order continued till late at night. Soldiers cleaned guns, then washed themselves. We went to the barrack at the dead of night.
  * * *
   'Get up! Never-do-well! Where is the company commander? Why aren't you doing morning exercises? Who is on duty today? In five minutes you'll get formation. All officers and praporshchiks do the same!' The battalion staff commander shouted at us, moving quickly around the room, then he kicked the door and jumped out.
   The company commander was quite well, but half-asleep. Starshina was snoring in the store-room, and the duty officer couldn't wake him. No morning exercises made a row. At 6.30 a.m. the technician could hardly stand on his feet, moreover, the GPV commander wasn't enough strong to get up, so we had to form without him.
   The other companies have got much more problems, because many commanders didn't come at all, but a few of them felt well. The officers from my company looked best of all.
   'Comrade captain! Why didn't you hand back the ammunition?'
   'You said to keep it!'
   'This night I've ordered another thing, the duty officer got it.'
   'I don't know! I'll take care!'
   'Do it yourself! You stupid assholes! No one will get medals! The technician is drunk. Where is the GPV commander?'
   'He has got a stomachache.'
   'Which is full of vodka, right? Get him! Now! Where are the documents for future military medals?'
   Somebody asked the writer to bring the papers.
   'Here!' I gave the documents to the staff commander, after got it from the writer.
   Pdorozhnik looked through the last names and demonstrated his anger, tearing up them slowly into four pieces. He thrust the papers into my hands.
   'Put everything in order, hand back the ammunition, tidy yourself. We'll get formation in two hours.' He left.
   The battalion commander Tsyganok wasn't to be seen anywhere. He went to the division headquarters as he wanted to hold a new post.
   The company commander called the officers and pronounced in deep thought,
   'Ivanych is awful shit! He envies my success and tries to find out my weak points. He has waited till the time is ripe to affect me. He always thought of my possible blocking in his carrier. Today we give the results for the regiment, when he was in charge of the company three and did nothing.'
   'Deputy battalion commander was in charge of the company Two and did also nothing. Fuck him off! I won't get a decoration, but no matter. Most of all I'd like to be substituted as soon as possible.'
   'Do you think, he'll keep cool?'
   'I don't think so! He is a harbourer of evil thoughts. He can't stand having combat operations instead of the battalion commander. He fights and no a new post. We are both the khokhols, though I can forgive people, but he can't. I'm a quite loyal person. Probably just unreal khokhol can do these things. I want to go to bed now, but not to get a new decoration. Kiss my ass!'
  
  Glossary
  Mussoloni, Benito Amelcare Andrea (1883-1945) - an Italian politician, who led the National Fascist Party, and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism. This nickname was given to the officer because of stressing his strict character.
  'White sun of the desert' (Russian - 'Beloye solntse pustini') (1969), a classic film of the Soviet Union. Its blend of action, comedy, music, and drama has made it widely successful and it has since achieved the status of a cult film in Soviet and Russian culture.
  Sukhov, Fyodor - the Red Army soldier has been fighting the Civil War in Russian Asia for a number of years. He was starred by Anatoly Kuznetsov (born in 1930) in the film 'White sun of the desert'.
  Vereschagin - a drunken former Imperial Russian customs official, starred by Pavel Luspekaev (1927-1970) in the film 'White sun of the desert'.
  DShK - a Soviet heavy anti-aircraft machine gun firing 12.7×108 mm Soviet cartridges. The weapon was also used as a heavy infantry machine gun.
  Bad boy - he was an antitypal character of Malschisch-Kibalchisch, negative character of the story 'Military Secret, Malschisch-Kibalchish and his strong line' (1935) written by Arkady Gaidar, a Soviet author, whose stories were very popular among Soviet children.
  Mole - a nickname of any mine picker in the Afghan war.
  'Za Sluzhbu Rodine' - 'The Order for Service to the Homeland in the Armed Forces' also known as 'The Order of Service to Motherland', which was a USSR military order created on 28 October 1974, making it the first military order created after the end of World War II. According to its statute, the order was awarded for exemplary service in the armed forces, both during a war and during peacetime.
  'Orden Krasnoi Zvezdy' - 'The Order of the Red Star' established on 6 April 1930, it was an order of the Soviet Union, given to Red Army and Soviet Navy personnel for exceptional service in the cause of the defense of the Soviet Union in both war and peace.
  FC 'Spartak' (Moscow) - a professional football club from Moscow, Russia. 'Spartak' have won 12 Soviet championships.
  FC 'Dynamo' (Kyiv) - a professional football club from Ukranian capital city of Kyiv. 'Dynamo' was one of the most successful clubs in the history of the Soviet Top League.
  Bulbenia - a nickname of Belorussia
  Pashtuns - also called Pathans, ethnic Afghans, are an Eastern Iranian ethno-linguistic group with populations primarly in Afghanistan and in the North-West Frontier Province, Federally Administrated Tribal Areas and Balochistan provinces of western Pakistan. The Pashtuns are typically characterized by their usage of the Pashto language and practice of Pashtunwali, which is a traditional code of conduct and honor.
  Greek gifts - 'Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes' is a Latin phrase from Virgil's Aeneid (II, 49). It means 'I fear the Danaas (Greeks) even if they bring gifts'. These words are used if the speaker gets some present or other benefit, which has been a potential danger for him/her.
  'Za Otvagu' - 'The Medal for Valor' was the highest military medal that could be awarded to a soldier of the Soviet Union for bravery on the field of battle. It was created on October 17, 1938 by the decision of the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, to be awarded for 'acts of bravery during a battle, during the defense of the state borders or during military duties associated with risk for life'.
  
  
  

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