It’s an early morning in Eastern Ukraine, we stand outside, My friend and I, smoking cigarettes in a gazebo next to the parade grounds of an unknown Regiment; our field packs, battle rattle, and rifles in tow. I felt a little awkward showing up for a sniper course carrying an AK74 but also figured we’d get loaned some for range use. My overall plan was that maybe if we attended the course, the Recon section could finally get issued a decent long-range rifle because it would then have some qualified shooters on board. That and to be honest, I wanted to do something new and interesting out of repetitious boredom.

Slowly, other soldiers carrying drag bags and kit casually shuffled over to us; men from the regimental sniper platoon. Finally a small Toyota Hilux sized pick up truck rolled up with an old man driving, I recognized him from the front lines as one of the staff commanders and he greeted us warmly. Logistics were discussed in Ukrainian between him and some of the other soldiers that I could scarcely understand. We then tossed our bags in back, climbed in, and away we went out the main gate; I throw the guard on duty a peace sign as we bounce past, I’m barely hanging on from inside the truck bed, but to be honest I’ve always found great joy from riding around “hound dog” like that.

Weird kid creeping in the back.

We stop outside the base part way in a local town to acquire snacks, cigs and beverages for our extended stay in the field. It’s summertime so this beach town is full of vacationers from the more urban centers of Ukraine; places like Kiev. Children and families in summer clothes walk past and eyeball us curiously but not with the wonder we had experienced in Kurdistan. This is primarily because we blend in ethnically much easier in eastern Europe than in the Middle East as you can imagine. Joey walks out of the store carrying Marlboro Reds and an assortment of junk food looking content. He climbs back in alongside our other cohorts and we set out. We pass field after field in the countryside until we finally arrive at the training grounds and our field camp.