My Never Ending Journey Back

My Never Ending Journey Back

Today we start a new blog from Marco Vorobiev. His series of stories on Soviet Spetsnaz arms in Afghanistan was a big hit with SGN readers. 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.

I have always had a fascination with firearms. So it was only natural that after moving to the United States I absorbed the American gun culture, or rather it absorbed me.

As a kid growing up in the Soviet Union, you are exposed to guns from an early age. First it was a trip to a market and air rifle range with your dad. Then in 5th through 8th grade, it was mandatory for boys to take a field trip to the DOSAAF (Volunteers Society to Assist Army, Air Force and Navy) range for .22 cal. rifle exercise.

Most every middle school had a .22 rifle range in its basement, where students would exercise their skills at least twice a year. At the same time, numerous sports clubs offered a variety of shooting disciplines from competitive pistol to trap and skeet, available to any kid.

The SVD Dragunov was Vorobiev's tool while serving as a sniper in Afghanistan. He says it was plenty accurate for the purpose, and was coveted by infantry ground- pounders armed with the AK74.

Then came the 9th and 10th grades, with the twice-a-week Beginners Military Preparation Course that included drilling, marching in formation, digging foxholes, putting on a gas mask and such, but the goal of this class was to make you proficient with an AK and as such to make you ready for a draft.

As a final exam for this course you took a trip to a real military range. There you were given an AK (the real full-auto military gun) and had to shoot three rounds on semi-auto into a 100-meter static target and six rounds on full-auto at resetting metal silhouette targets that were set at 200-400 meter ranges.

Just think, by age 16 all Soviet boys and most girls have had fired a full automatic AK and could field strip it with their eyes closed.

Then came a draft into Soviet Armed Forces and two years of mandatory service in 1985-87. As fate would have it, I wound up in Spetsnaz Training Center in Chirchik, Uzbekistan (then part of the Soviet Union) for preparation for deployment to Afghanistan.

There I reported to the 467 Spetsnaz Training Regiment. Three months to the date after putting on a uniform, I was ready or more accurately, was deemed ready by the Soviet Army to kill and be killed for the Motherland. Shortly thereafter came a short ride aboard a luxurious AN-26 military transport to Bagram followed by an exotic vacation in Afghanistan, where I have served for 16 months, at first as a sniper within a fire support group and later as a rifleman within an assault unit in my Spetsnaz detachment fighting Mujahideen in eastern Afghanistan.

A ragged and desolate place, our area of responsibility is better described by the Soviet Military manual as Mountainous Desert Area. Basically you either swallow dust in the summer or freeze to death in the winter. In both cases those inconveniences are usually accompanied by hiking up and down some pretty formidable mountains while dodging bullets. Needless to say we, our gear and equipment got real workout in most adverse conditions.

Now, I often reflect on my longer than life time in Afghanistan. I am glad I made it back and have an opportunity to share my experiences with others. Some say what I write is informative, some say it is interesting, but for me is it mostly therapeutic.

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