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The Fighting Units Of Spetsnaz Page 3

The Inside Story Of The Soviet Special Forces

The Fighting Units Of Spetsnaz Page 3

Spetsnaz has no distinguishing badge or insignia -- officially, at any rate. But unofficially the spetsnaz badge is a wolf, or rather a pack of wolves. The wolf is a strong, proud animal which is remarkable for its quite incredible powers of endurance. A wolf can run for hours through deep snow at great speed, and then, when he scents his prey, put on another astonishing burst of speed. Sometimes he will chase his prey for days, reducing it to a state of exhaustion.

Exploiting their great capacity for endurance, wolves first exhaust and then attack animals noted for their tremendous strength, such as the elk. People say rightly that the 'wolf lives on its legs'. Wolves will bring down a huge elk, not so much by the strength of their teeth as by the strength of their legs.

The wolf also has a powerful intellect. He is proud and independent. You can tame and domesticate a squirrel, a fox or even a great elk with bloodshot eyes. And there are many animals that can be trained to perform. A performing bear can do really miraculous things. But you cannot tame a wolf or train it to perform. The wolf lives in a pack, a closely knit and well organised fighting unit of frightful predators. The tactics of a wolf pack are the very embodiment of flexibility and daring. The wolves' tactics are an enormous collection of various tricks and combinations, a mixture of cunning and strength, confusing manoeuvres and sudden attacks.

No other animal in the world could better serve as a symbol of the spetsnaz. And there is good reason why the training of a spetsnaz soldier starts with the training of his legs. A man is as strong and young as his legs are strong and young. If a man has a sloppy way of walking and if he drags his feet along the ground, that means he himself is weak. On the other hand, a dancing, springy gait is a sure sign of physical and metal health. Spetsnaz soldiers are often dressed up in the uniform of other branches of the services and stationed in the same military camps as other especially secret units, usually with communications troops. But one doesn't need any special experience to pick out the spetsnaz man from the crowd. You can tell him by the way he walks.

I shall never forget one soldier who was known as 'The Spring'. He was not very tall, slightly stooping and round-shouldered. But his feet were never still. He kept dancing about the whole time. He gave the impression of being restrained only by some invisible string, and if the string were cut the soldier would go on jumping, running and dancing and never stop. The military commissariat whose job it was to select the young soldiers and sort them out paid no attention to him and he fetched up in an army missile brigade. He had served almost a year there when the brigade had to take part in manoeuvres in which a spetsnaz company was used against them. When the exercise was over the spetsnaz company was fed there in the forest next to the missile troops.

The officer commanding the spetsnaz company noticed the soldier in the missile unit who kept dancing about all the time he was standing in the queue for his soup.

'Come over here, soldier.' The officer drew a line on the ground. 'Now jump.' The soldier stood on the line and jumped from there, without any run-up. The company commander did not have anything with him to measure the length of the jump, but there was no need. The officer was experienced in such things and knew what was good and what was excellent. 'Get into my car!' 'I cannot, comrade major, without my officer's permission.' 'Get in and don't worry, you'll be all right with me. I will speak up for you and tell the right people where you have been.' The company commander made the soldier get into his car and an hour later presented him to the chief of army intelligence, saying: 'Comrade colonel, look what I've found among the missile troops.' 'Now then, young man, let's see you jump.' The soldier jumped from the spot. This time there was a tape measure handy and it showed he had jumped 241 centimetres. 'Take the soldier into your lot and find him the right sort of cap,' the colonel said.

The commander of the spetsnaz company took off his own blue beret and gave it to the soldier. The chief of intelligence immediately phoned the chief of staff of the army, who gave the appropriate order to the missile brigade -- forget you ever had such a man.

The dancing soldier was given the nickname 'The Spring' on account of his flexibility. He had never previously taken a serious interest in sport, but he was a born athlete. Under the direction of experienced trainers his talents were revealed and he immediately performed brilliantly. A year later, when he completed his military service, he was already clearing 2 metres 90 centimetres. He was invited to join the professional athletic service of spetsnaz, and he agreed.

The long jump with no run has been undeservedly forgotten and is no longer included in the programme of official competitions. When it was included in the Olympic Games the record set in 1908, was 3 metres 33 centimetres. As an athletic skill the long jump without a run is the most reliable indication of the strength of a person's legs. And the strength of his legs is a reliable indicator of the whole physical condition of a soldier. Practically half a person's muscles are to be found in his legs. Spetsnaz devotes colossal attention to developing the legs of its men, using many simple but very effective exercises: running upstairs, jumping with ankles tied together up a few steps and down again, running up steep sandy slopes, jumping down from a great height, leaping from moving cars and trains, knee-bending with a barbell on the shoulders, and of course the jump from a spot. At the end of the 1970s the spetsnaz record in this exercise, which has not been recognised by the official sports authorities, was 3 metres 51 centimetres.

A spetsnaz soldier knows that he is invincible. This may be a matter of opinion, but other people's opinions do not interest the soldier. He knows himself that he is invincible and that's enough for him. The idea is instilled into him carefully, delicately, not too insistently, but continually and effectively. The process of psychological training is inseparably linked to the physical toughening. The development of a spirit of self-confidence and of independence and of a feeling of superiority over any opponent is carried out at the same time as the development of the heart, the muscles and the lungs. The most important element in training a spetsnaz soldier is to make him believe in his own strength.

A man's potential is unlimited, the reasoning goes. A man can reach any heights in life in any sphere of activity. But in order to defeat his opponents a man must first overcome himself, combat his own fears, his lack of confidence and laziness. The path upwards is one of continual battle with oneself. A man must force himself to rise sooner than the others and go to bed later. He must exclude from his life everything that prevents him from achieving his objective. He must subordinate the whole of his existence to the strictest regime. He must give up taking days off. He must use his time to the best possible advantage and fit in even more than was thought possible. A man aiming for a particular target can succeed only if he uses every minute of his life to the maximum advantage for carrying out his plan. A man should find four hours' sleep quite sufficient, and the rest of his time can be used for concentrating on the achievement of his objective.

I imagine that to instil this psychology into a mass army formed by means of compulsory mobilisation would be impossible and probably unnecessary. But in separate units carefully composed of the best human material such a philosophy is entirely acceptable.   continued next page...

[This is an excerpt from "The Inside Story Of The Soviet Special Forces" by By Viktor Suvorov]

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