Marco Vorobiev was a member of the elite Soviet Spetsnaz in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He's a U.S. citizen now and conducts training courses that draw on his special forces training. He'll have a new installment every Wednesday.
Having been there, done that does not make me a specialist on everything tactical, military or otherwise. But one thing is for sure; I have been there and made it back: I've survived.
That's right, the second you land in a war zone, you start to survive. My goal while in Afghanistan was not to capture a Muj stronghold or intercept a convoy or eliminate an enemy detachment. No, it was to survive and get back.
However, there is a caveat. Survival in a war is often coupled with doing things that inherently dangerous to your health. How well you do those things determines whether you reach your ultimate goal of coming home alive. Oh, it also does not mean cowering behind a rock during a firefight. It means to be better than your enemy, be better trained, better prepared, more fluid and streamlined. Be practical.
You grow up quickly in the war. You make a giant leap from naive greenhorn with homegrown ideals to practical and rationally thinking adult very fast. The first hike up the mountain or a 20 km night advance on foot points out your load-out deficiencies. You discover quickly how much crap you do not need and how inefficient and cumbersome standard issue equipment is. After a firefight or two, you see how many "accessories" your rifle should really have on it. I bet you would trade a weight of those for extra ammo very quick.
Practical mobility and efficiency are essential to a modern fighting unit. Regimental frontal assaults across a no-man's land are way behind us. Most recent successful engagements were won by smaller, highly trained, mobile units. Operating within a modern warfare environment means becoming a practical and efficient operator. This often means that you may have to learn a few new trades like a seamstress, entry level gunsmith, amateur tactician and cartographer.
The practical aspect of firearms, equipment and tactics becomes so imbedded that even today I approach everything from that angle. Whether I am buying a new car or a firearm, I weigh carefully its practicality and applicability.
Today, it is easy to fall in the "tactical" pit. It seems that every manufacturer in the industry has adopted the term "tactical" as a means of selling their products. To separate the BS from the truth is no easy task, especially for a novice. That is why I've decided to offer my opinion on things from my practical point of view drawn from hands on experience and my inherent Russian "Space Pencil"-like frugalness.
My promise to you would be that at all times I will call it as it is, I will equally highlight good and bad parts, I will question practical application of firearms, gear and accessories and offer my honest opinion. One thing to remember is that it is an opinion just like many others and it is entirely up to you to make an ultimate decision.
Soviet troops in Afghanistan, mid-1980s. They traveled a lot lighter than today's
US troops; no body armor in evidence here. If they survived, their backs and
knees are probably a lot sounder.