Pimping Their Ride

Christmas came early this year to Ukrainian fighting forces in the form of four M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems). They arrived in the embattled nation late last month as part of a $700 million military aid package courtesy of Uncle Sam.

As soldiers do, the young Ukrainian men operating this equipment wasted no time customizing their new rides. Up went some flimsy paper images of scantily clad women carefully torn from a favorite magazine. In the vicinity, other essentials could be found…rosary beads, a spare dog tag chain, and one of those dangly air fresheners shaped like a pine tree.

Home sweet home. I like how they placed the pin-up in a protective plastic holder. Image Credit: Anastasia Vlasova

On the outside of the vehicle, they have proudly stenciled three small black skulls, one for each successful kill. Kuzya, the call sign for the weapons systems chief, says, “We actually have six; we just haven’t had a chance to add the other three yet.” I haven’t seen any photos of the skulls, but something tells me they likely resemble the “Punisher” skulls popularized by Task Unit Bruiser in Iraq. At least, that’s how I like to imagine it.

The coveted rocket launcher is parked under a tightly grouped clump of trees down the end of a dirt road far into the Ukrainian countryside. The men operating this machine are quickly becoming experts at hiding it from Russian drones. With only four on the ground now, they can’t afford to lose one.

Kuzya says that their targets have focused on Russian command and control centers. These were located in warehouses packed with enemy officers and a weapons cache.

The Ukrainians Are Quite Appreciative