For me, the commander of the reconnaissance and diving platoon 180 OMIB SF, senior lieutenant Alexander Chernyavsky, military service began on November 22, 1976. I and my platoon were seconded to the 61st Separate Marine Regiment of the Northern Fleet for military coordination (commander of the landing Major S. Remizov, Chief of the Airborne Staff Senior Lieutenant N. Kaliskarov, Deputy Commander for Political Affairs Captain Vyazovkin, Deputy Commander of the Landing Force for Technical parts Major N. Grinnik). I gladly accepted the order to send for military service: the officers of our unit who had taken part in military service earlier - senior lieutenants N. Pluta (twice), O. Skaletsky and A. Dovydov, talked a lot, shared their impressions, so that I dreamed of service from the first day of service in the Northern Fleet. The platoon quickly assembled from experienced divers - sappers of a regular reconnaissance and diving platoon (squad leader, senior sailor V. Dolgov), a sapper squad (squad leader, junior sergeant V. Kiryakov) and a crew of mechanics-drivers of the PTS-M floating transporter. The body of the conveyor and its "lock" were sealed, the diving equipment and mine detectors were checked and prepared.
As mentioned earlier, the platoon was staffed with experienced specialists: each diver had several dives with various engineering tasks under water, sappers took part in demining several times, each one had more than one hundred destroyed explosive items left over from the time of the Great Patriotic War. The driver-mechanics took part in the exercises for the landing of amphibious assault forces. Combat coordination consisted in improving skills: sappers practiced the tasks of making passages in mine-explosive obstacles, divers went down under the water, and PTS-M driver mechanics worked out driving tasks afloat and trained in loading onto the landing ship in reverse from the water (conveyor width only 15 cm less than the width of the BDK ramp). And, of course, everyone, together with the Marine Corps company, performed combat firing exercises with small arms.
Following to Baltiysk
When loading the equipment onto the platform of the military echelon, Major N. Grinnik rendered great assistance to me and the PTS-M driver-mechanics. Under his leadership, the brake shoes, pads and wire for fastening the equipment were prepared in advance for all the equipment of the landing. Loading took place on time, as well as unloading in Baltiysk and loading at the Krasnaya Presnya large landing ship. Then the equipment was securely fixed in a storm-like manner, because the sea is not always calm, but most of all, as you know, the bow and stern of the ship shakes, and the PTS-M was the first in the first twin-deck. The reliability of the fastening was tested in the Bay of Biscay, where the ship was caught in a severe storm. The mount survived. The sailors of the platoon were placed in the landing room, I was placed in the landing room together with the tankmen: the commander of a company of amphibious tanks Senior Lieutenant A. Sudnikov and the platoon commanders Senior Lieutenants O. Belevantsev and V. Zamaraev. We made friends quickly, and during the entire military service there was not a single case that we had disagreements. They made friends especially with Senior Lieutenant A. Sudnikov. This is a real professional, erudite, competent officer.A handbook for him in the cabin was a textbook on the PT-76, and, naturally, he knew its structure, operation and repair thoroughly. On his initiative and under his leadership, live firing was carried out for the first time from the aft ramp of the ship; the landing officers were truly Spartan. Our cabin was especially "lucky": not only were there no air conditioners in the cabins of the landing officers, there was also a bakery next door to us, which did not add coolness to us. But I still remember the smell of freshly baked bread. In the crew quarters, the air conditioners were working properly. When the ship was on the transition, it was relatively cool - they caught oncoming air flows from the windows, and when the ship was standing at the wall or in the roadstead, it was impossible to sleep because of the heat and stuffiness. A small fan helped a little, and since there were four of us in the cabin, we had a relatively normal sleep once every four nights.
Transfer to the place of military service (to the port of Conakry)
We went out in winter, in December, so we were dressed accordingly, but after a few days we had already changed into a tropical uniform. When the ship with the landing party on board passed the Danish straits, the English Channel, combat alarms were constantly announced, so we could see little: the landing force was descending into the crew quarters, and the windows in the cabins were covered with "armor". The alarms were announced for the reason that we were constantly accompanied by warships and boats of the NATO countries, their planes and helicopters flew around them, moreover, filming was carried out from boats and helicopters. The days were busy with combat training and service. I went on duty on the landing, the sailors of the platoon were involved in outfits for the landing cockpit, orderlies for tweendecks, and other outfits. Combat alarms were announced several times a day. They arrived in the port of Conakry on December 28, that is, on the very eve of the new year, 1977, where the Black Sea Fleet troops were replaced. The ship was placed at the wall, and combat days began. With the launch of the large landing craft into the open sea, together with the personnel of the landing force, they performed combat firing exercises from small arms at floating targets. Well, our most important task was to inspect the bottom, propellers and rudders of the ship before the transitions. The descents were carried out from the stern ramp, no explosive devices were found. In Conakry, conditions were relatively comfortable: visibility in the water was satisfactory, fresh water was constantly supplied from the shore, and jogging along the pier was allowed in the morning. Tours around the city were conducted in groups of five sailors led by an officer. For the first time, everyone was eager to look at the local exotic with pleasure, but since the uniform for excursions was by no means tropical - trousers, shoes, a long-sleeved shirt, a tie and a cap (this is in 45-degree heat!), Then in minutes 15 was not up to the exotic. There were no people willing to visit Conakry for the second time.
In February, it was announced to us that we were going to the Republic of Benin, as there was an attempted coup d'etat by a detachment of mercenaries. We were ready for anything, but we didn't have to fight: the coup failed, and by our arrival the mercenaries had already gone home. We arrived in the capital of Benin, Cotonou, on the eve of February 23. Our ship was visited by employees of the embassy, military mission and members of their families, headed by the USSR ambassador to the Republic of Benin. They greeted us enthusiastically, like relatives, because a few days ago there was indiscriminate shooting on the streets of the city, there was a high probability of a coup. And then, as it turned out, our ship was the first warship in our country to visit the port of Cotonou. An offer followed to visit the embassy. Ten people were selected, including myself. The holiday is over and weekdays have begun.The landing party was tasked with promoting their country, technology and training. If tankers and gunners demonstrated equipment, then my platoon got a demonstration of combat training. The fact is that both of my squad leaders are Jr. Sergeant V. Kiryakov and Art. sailor V. Dolgov - had the first sports category in sambo, they had to show hand-to-hand fighting techniques. Mats were laid on the upper deck, Dolgov changed into the uniform of the Marine Corps, and Kiryakov - in a camouflage suit (meant "enemy"). The demonstration of receptions to the President of Benin, Colonel Mathieu Kerek, really liked it, and he sent his deputies to the ship, then members of the government, etc. up to the students of Benin universities. After the second show of tricks, the guys got bruises and abrasions: the mats were thin, and the deck, as you know, was metal, and sometimes there were throws between the mats and past them. After the third show, the whole body was already aching, but the guys stood firm to the end, and in total they had to demonstrate hand-to-hand combat techniques five or six times.
There were no training descents under the water, as the water in the port was coffee-colored and visibility under water was practically zero. After Benin, the ship sailed to Luanda, the capital of Angola, where the revolution recently took place and the state gained independence. There was a civil war in the country. The government forces, led by the President of Angola, Antonio Agostinho Neto, were assisted by our military advisers. At the crossing, the BDK crossed the equator. The vast majority of the landing force passed the equator for the first time. Therefore, a theatrical performance was prepared - the holiday of Neptune. The role of Neptune was played by the commander of the landing, Major S. Remizov. Everything went great, everyone was given a personal certificate confirming the crossing of the equator. This event was a good psychological relief for the personnel of both the landing party and the ship. Upon arrival in Luanda, the BDK was immediately put astern against the wall. The visibility in the water was excellent, from the deck of the ship one could see the bottom of the bay. I turned to the landing commander with a request to organize training launches in the bay next to the ship. Major S. Remizov also expressed a desire to go under the water. He knew the basics of diving, so after additional training and instruction, he successfully completed several dives. Our diving vehicles were of the regenerative type (that is, without exhaling into the water) of the TP (tactical swimming) brand - a lightweight version of the IDA-71 apparatus. During the very first descents under the water, a group of Cubans in military uniforms, but without insignia, approached us. They did not speak Russian, but with the help of gestures and individual words, I realized that they, too, were divers and knew our TP apparatus well. Later I saw them in action - they worked out their tasks under water. They were real professionals - combat swimmers.
In Luanda itself, hostilities had recently ended, fighting with the opposition was still going on in the outskirts of the city, so I, assuming that weapons and ammunition might be at the bottom of the bay, forbade the divers to touch and, moreover, raise anything to the surface. During one of the descents under the water, he almost got injured st. sailor V. Dolgov. The descents were organized according to all the rules of the diving service. On the large landing craft were hung flags "Zero", meaning "Diving operations are in progress, the movement of vessels is prohibited." This is an international signal. But at the time when the diver was under water, the boat, standing nearby, suddenly got under way, and Dolgov was almost pulled under the screws. Together with the sailor Shishkin, the supplying diver, we literally pulled him out from under the screws. There were no walking tours of the city because of the fighting, but there was a guided tour in buses. The city is beautiful, especially the old fortress, which offers an excellent view of the city and the harbor.Demonstrations of amphibious assault landing for presidents of states were held in Cotonou and Luanda. Three pieces of equipment landed afloat - the amphibious tank PT-76, BTR-60PB and our PTS-M, which always landed first, which was due to its placement on the ship. This came with a lot of responsibility. PTS-M was used as an evacuation and rescue vehicle, although it can also be used as a landing vehicle, since it is capable of taking on board 72 paratroopers. In the event of a defeat or failure of the landing equipment, a towing cable was attached to the forekop of the transporter, the second end of which was placed on the transporter, where there were three divers in full gear - descending, providing and belaying in readiness to descend into the water and fix the second end of the cable to the hook of the emerging failure of equipment for the purpose of further evacuation. In case of flooding, the divers were ready to rescue the crew. In Benin, everything went smoothly and the PTS-M did not have to be used as an evacuation and rescue vehicle, but in Luanda, when the amphibious assault was shown to the President of Angola, the PT-76 amphibious tank suddenly stalled (as it turned out later, there was a coolant leak). Everything went quickly and clearly, because this issue had been worked out more than once even before combat service: the diver went down into the water, secured the end of the cable to the hook of the stalled tank, which was successfully towed to the shore. Well, the president was informed that he was shown the evacuation of the out of order landing equipment.
End of military service and return home
The term of military service was coming to an end. BDK made the transition to the port of Conakry, it remained to wait for the replacement, which came two weeks later. This period was used to put in order the ship and landing equipment. Rust spots appeared on the PTS-M body from seawater and high humidity, so it was necessary to peel off the paint, prime and paint the entire conveyor. The ship was also put in order. Old paint on the upper deck was scraped off with special metal scrapers and a fresh coat of paint was applied. After the arrival of the shift, the BDK headed for Baltiysk. When it had no more than 12 hours to go, a command was sent to take part in the joint exercises of the fleets of the USSR, Germany and Poland on the landing of the amphibious assault "Val-77". The ship was only involved in maneuvers and landing demonstrations. At the end of the exercise, we arrived in Baltiysk, where our large landing craft Krasnaya Presnya was solemnly greeted by the commander of the Baltic Fleet with an orchestra and a roast pig. We were a little jealous of the naval officers and midshipmen, for whom the military service was over, they were met by their wives and children, and we had a number of other events ahead - unloading from the large landing ship, loading onto railway platforms and moving to the Pechenga station of the Murmansk railway. All these events went smoothly, but the end of our move was overshadowed by a sharp deterioration in the weather - it suddenly got colder, it snowed, a blizzard broke out (this is at the end of June!). I had to freeze, because from the heat and high humidity, winter clothes became moldy and many, including myself, threw away their winter jackets. But all this was a trifle, the main thing is that we came home. True, my platoon and I still had to make a 180-kilometer march to my unit, so I saw my family a little later than the rest of the officers and warrant officers of the landing.