They shoot and run round the clock. They practice hand-to-hand combat underwater and skydive from great heights. They study history, philosophy, and higher maths. They create simulated diversions and conduct simulated enemy’s rear area raids. They teach the cadets everything. Over 100 years, the infantry courses in Ryazan’ve turned into a unique higher education institution, the Ryazan Higher Airborne School.
The cadets spend more time at the firing range than in classrooms. They get used to living in the field. The sound of combat vehicles and cannonade are their usual environment. Some are trained to conduct assault operations in an enemy’s rear area. Others are trained to do quiet work abroad.
Rashid Gorelov, cadet: “We have many classes and various tactics and firearms training. We spend a lot of time doing physical exercises.”
Alexey Ragozin, Head of the School: “The most ridiculous myth about the school is that it’s almost impossible to enter. I experienced it myself when I failed to enroll on the first attempt. When I returned to my homeland, a military commissar told me that I’ll never be admitted there. They enroll only masters of sports and honors students. Then, I decided that I’ll enroll for sure, and I did it on my second attempt.”
– How many people live here?
They live like servicemen, in barracks, no frills. Anatoliy Gorchakov is from a remote Zabaykalsky Krai’s village. He enrolled on his second attempt, too. He’s a five-year student now.
Anatoly Gorchakov: “You can see my bed. Here are my notes.”
Tactics copybook of Gorchakov Anatoly Andreevich. That’s what they’re studying. This is military science right here.
Alexey Ragozin: “In five years, an ordinary enrollee who enters here will be ready to become a leader of a small group, a platoon commander, who is able to lead people and accomplish not only a training but a combat mission.”
Gorchakov like everyone here knows his personal weapon’s number by heart.
– What’s your number?
– 095004951, the short number is 951.
– Zero, nine, five hundred…
– Forty-nine, fifty-one.
– Let me see. Yes, that’s 4951. How many times have you fired it?
– I think several thousand times.
– Several thousand?
“The dangerous direction is to the right and to the left, inside the red triangle. The start line is white pillars, start firing…”
There’s no such military training even in the famous American West Point Academy nor in the British Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. In the Ryazan School, they say that the air is thick with airborne chauvinism. The education is based on the airborne forces’ traditions.
“None of us will betray.
The sailor suit will reveal the secret.”
Even the academy’s orchestra’s imitating a jump with a parachute on the parade ground.
Alexey Ragozin: “We can train an all-purpose soldier, who is good at hand-to-hand combat and shooting. But our main task is bigger and more global: our task is to train a leader, a motivated patriot of his own country, who’ll be able to lead people if our state is under threat.”
Veterans are frequent guests in the school and at the firing range. This time, on the occasion of their alma mater’s jubilee, they performed an unusual forced march.
Andrey Lyubanov, school’s alumnus: “The one-hundredth anniversary is an important milestone. So we decided to hold an airborne triathlon. We’ll cover 24 miles on bicycles, then 18 miles in canoes. That’s hard enough.”
Vadim Sayapin, school’s alumnus: “We can’t live without each other. If your friend’s in the canoe, you’ll sit next to him.”
Surprisingly, the retired air forces servicemen turned out to be in good shape.
Sergey Ulianenko, school’s alumnus: “We’ll always be grateful for the education we’ve received in this school. When I was a cadet, I was the school’s platoon commander. Then I was a company commander before Afghanistan.”
Out of 93 miles of the march, they covered 40 on foot. The veterans finished at the gate of their alma mater.
Alexey Romanov, school’s alumnus: “When we marched today, cars outpaced us and honked at us. And everyone knows that the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School celebrates its 100th anniversary. It makes the service in the air forces more popular.”
It encourages to study in the famous school. All of the cadets of the Ryazan School undergo this training. So that afterward, they could train their subordinates to accomplish combat missions underwater but in other places.
This training center is called Assault. They make combat divers out of ordinary students which they call “dry” here. A cadet must be able to mine and demine bridge pillars, sluice gates, seawalls, and hunt diversionists. They should be able to do it underwater.
Alexander Grushka, Head of the Assault training center: “The most difficult thing is to take one’s first breath underwater. When you breathe in and out, you realize that it’s possible. Then, everything becomes much easier.”
They use the most advanced diving equipment. The majority of them are classified. Experienced instructors teach the cadets to shoot and fight hand-to-hand underwater.
Alexander Grushka: “They first like it a lot when they come here and see mirror-like water surface. Of course, they like it a lot at first and think of it as a game probably. When they realize how serious it is and how difficult it is to complete all of the tasks, it’s not a game for them anymore and they treat it in a very serious and responsible way. It’s impossible to make them leave.”
“Don’t hurt your head when leaning.”
They prepare the cadets for underwater operations. They use real and training systems.
Alexey Ragozin: “We receive the first simulators of the new equipment made for the army. We test them here. New parachute systems are first supplied to the school, too. We examine them and make jumps using those systems.”
This is the special parachute training center. It has a wind tunnel. The instructors are so experienced that it takes them a few minutes to teach a novice to float in the air. It’s very useful. Well, for professionals. One hour here equals sixty jumps from an aircraft, such as a plane, a helicopter, from a 13,000-foot-height. That’s an economy. One has to know how to do all these things.
Pavel Dudoladov, senior instructor: “One’s eyes tell everything. Either one comes with big eyes, frightened and strained or one comes relaxed and confident that he’ll do it. You can see it at once. You start working and find a personal approach to everyone.”
Pyotr Chefranov, instructor: “If you see him doing well, you give him more freedom. If you see him struggling, you try to give him more support.”
You can see that the infrastructure allows for constant enhancement of opportunities. The more complicated combat missions are, the more complicated training missions are here. You can see that the serviceman is already carrying a load. They use various arms and equipment. He’s training to make jumps in a difficult environment. Look at how well he’s working. It seems incredible to me. This isn’t a circus, this is tricks in the air. They haven’t shown this aerodynamic complex to journalists yet. The Vesti team is the first to be permitted to film it. The trainees accomplish hundreds of missions.
Pavel Tochilschikov, head of the aerodynamic complex: “You can see a group of servicemen working. The given parameter of height is 9,800 feet, the parachute deployment height is 5,000 feet. The servicemen have already deployed their parachutes and began to work as a team. The servicemen steer their parachute system with the steering lines. They see the picture via 3-D glasses.”
You can see that there’s a parachute malfunction. He deploys a reserve parachute. That’s what the trainee sees via his glasses. Look how the trainee acts during the simulated flight who has a parachute malfunction, which was planned on purpose.
All of this was thought of, developed, and made in Russia. Though, foreign countries have such equipment, too. Americans have it but our systems are more advanced in many respects. Still, they have theirs. The best equipment is here, in Ryazan.
Ivan Shmelev, air forces serviceman:
– Everything is so realistic. The steering lines are real. You can see what you’re doing. You can monitor your parachute.
– Is the system convenient?
– Is it different from the real one? All of it is real parachute’s shroud lines. We act just as we do in real life.
Any landing area can be simulated: in the winter, at night, in the day, on water, in the mountains, in any city, and in any neighborhood. They can practice all of it before accomplishing a real combat mission.
The Ryazan School has had 140 graduating classes. It has trained 50,000 air forces officers. There are 53 Heroes of the Soviet Union and 82 Heroes of the Russian Federation among them. A new generation is being trained to replace them.
Rashid Gorelov, cadet:
– I’m defending my fatherland. That’s why I’m ready to train every day even if it’ll be a monotonous and tedious work. But I have an important goal to train for. So do my fellows.
– Isn’t it just a propagandist idea?
– Well, I don’t know. Maybe for someone, it’s propagandist. For me, it’s the meaning of my life.
The Ryazan School has 3,500 cadets, 4 schools of thought, one research institute, 21 academic departments. The teaching staff includes 160 combat veterans and 32 teachers with post-doctoral degrees. Its alumni are welcomed at the GRU Special Forces, FSB, and FSO. But the majority of new lieutenants continue to serve in the airborne forces.