We all have read the history books about living in trenches and thinking, “My god that must suck so bad!…” well guys I can confirm that the trench life is hardcore.
It’s not often these days that our soldiers get to experience trench warfare, the battlefields of today are not conventional where one might see the use of a trench, it is all about counterinsurgency warfare. But there is a place on earth where the history books are coming to life and that place is Ukraine. World War One tactics being revitalized, with a mix of modern day equipment, makes for one of the most testing and interesting battlefields in the 21st century.
It is all about keeping morale up in the trenches and that is far easier said than done, believe it or not, they prefer winter months down here in the trenches to the spring months. At first, that’s not easy to see why. When I arrived here back-end of January the temperature was -20 with a windchill factor even lower. Covered in snow, it was hard to see how anyone could or want to fight in these extreme conditions. But in the trenches this makes for a cleaner life. The mud is frozen making it a little bit easier to walk around without having a ton of mud stuck to your boots and trailing that around your living area/bed space. The downside is you need to keep what heat you can muster up in the living area and god forbid your blanket covering the doorway fell down!
As spring approaches, the snow begins to melt and the mud rises. The walls start to suck water and what you are left with can only be described as a pigsty. You don’t need to touch the walls or floor, the mud and dirt will find you, no matter how hard I tried to keep clean it was impossible. But somehow you just get on with it what else are you going to do, bitch and cry will only make your time in these shit holes even worse. I like the Ukrainian approach, when the sun is out you will often see guys popping chicken on the barbecue, and sitting outside to the rear of the trench. Sometimes you find them drinking coffee with their buddies sharing a game of cards or playing some old prison board games, betting for cigarettes. It keeps them happy, so why not?
The thing here is some of the trenches were put up in a bit of hurry, and not well designed. We’re talking one straight line kind of thing! Some, on the other hand, will zig zag for over a kilometer with a number of sleeping quarters and some form of a toilet?! With a vast amount of firing positions, depending on which unit you spend your time with here will make the biggest difference. Some units like marines and recon battalions are of course better equipped not only with weapons but with food and water! (Morale)
Every day in the trenches, these soldiers will constantly be on edge that they will be overrun. As result, people tend to do stupid shit! They face daily contact from small arms and artillery lasting a long fucking time. After a while of gazing into the pitch black of nothingness, your mind will start to see things hear things and make shit up! This is why it’s very important to keep you lads fresh and have good rotations going. Not just the staging on, but swapping of troops out from the rear to the trench.
It’s a wonderful thing to experience really, going from feeling completely safe to all your senses standing up, and then that feel or worry followed by anger and finished with hate! Then the next morning because of shit ass night of making shit up in your head you think you have a great idea? This is where it all goes wrong! Start out hungrily battle fatigued, then try to implement that idea.
Thankfully in some cases not all, they have people like my team and dudes from the Ukrainian Special Operations regiment, to say “What the fuck are you guys smoking? Just stop.” The other downside here is they have access to a what seems like an unlimited supply of mines and explosives. For whatever reason, these people will litter mines everywhere around them in a 360. Like for real a lot of Ukrainian soldiers get injured from stepping on mines; their own mines might I add. Some food for thought, Ukraine is not allowed to make a tactical push or any advancement on the Ruskies, so how the hell do all these soldiers get injured from mines? The answer is what I said: guys with two years or less military background terrified out their mind doing stupid shit in the night.
I remember having a very good argument with this Ukrainian commander about the subject. He wanted our team to clear a minefield and a new safer route to his trench, then from his trench, 900 m to 1 km was the separatist position. He wanted us to de-mine their mines and relay our own? This was on the right flank then the left flank about 80 m away in a treeline, mine that shit up too! This was after clearing 1 km of routes in the rear leading to his trench. (Story for an0ther time)….
Moving on, they limit their own movement by mining the shit out of everywhere and limit their own capability in the area. There are recon units and SOF elements working in the area too, their tasks are gaining information on enemy movement, to sabotage and ultimately to try to limit the separatist movements. But what you have is a clusterfuck. SOF and recon units end up canceling the mission due to too much risk of getting blown up. Or they attempt and get killed or injured, resulting in the mission failing. Now I am not saying this happens every time but it happens a lot! However, some of the excuses are straight up BS: we don’t need to worry, they will inform everyone, don’t worry about what might happen in the future. These guys need to feel safe!
There is so much of this stupid shit going on, it’s unreal. As a result people are being killed or wounded on a daily, one of the stories I heard was fucking insane! Some unit put an F1 grenade with a trip wire on the second floor of their house, one of they guys goes upstairs and boom!! Not dead thank god, but injured. It has come to the point that if Ukraine was to make a big power move and advance, I feel they would lose 20% of their current boots on the ground through their own mines and IEDs. That is before they hit the other side’s minefields on top of small arms, artillery, tanks, BTRs. To be honest I just think they have the manpower to take such a loss, even if the push was a successful one, the amount of explosive left in the newly occupied areas would be a monumental task to clear! Do I have a solution to this? Yes, but I think now is not the time to put my spin on it. Let’s just see what happens this year.