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First you must survive the Ukrainian counteroffensive drill commander

Meet the Ukrainian drill sergeant who's whipping frontline counteroffensive fighters into shape.
First you must survive the Ukrainian counteroffensive drill commander
Posted at 1:53 PM, Jul 12, 2023

Bohdan is a drill commander in the Ukraine army’s 128th mountain brigade, and a veteran infantryman. He considers "vpered" to be Ukraine's only option. "Vpered" is the Ukrainian word for "forward."

"There is only one way out. That is to go forward and forward, to be further, to be deeper, to be the first," said Bohdan.  

Scripps News was granted rare access to a training ground where elements of the 128th mountain brigade are intensely preparing. Thirty-five miles from the Zaphorizia sector front line, Bodhan leads a platoon through drills to improve their chances of survival and their unit's cohesion. He considers both inextricably linked. 

"War is not the task of one person," he says. "Our training lays the foundations for teamwork, cooperation, love for comrades and sisters, as well as psychological readiness and resilience in crisis situations and also, non-standard decision-making in a crisis situation."

His unit is combat experienced. This is not basic training. They’re here improving their skills for how to get through Russian mine fields and how to get through Russian trenches. 

Ukrainian forces are facing tremendous challenges in the slow, brutal counter-offensive — not least of which is the terrain. It's flat, open and exposed. 

SEE MORE: Ukraine uses decoy weapons to diminish Russia's limited arsenal

Bodhan knows the front-line realities first-hand as an infantryman in a brigade that has already aggressively advanced in the counteroffensive on the southeastern front.  

The Ukrainian army's chief general posted video of the brigade liberating the village of Pyatykhatky. But for the brigade's units on rotation to the front lines, casualties are mounting. It's amplifying the urgency and intensity Bohdan brings to this training. 

"It's no secret that the majority of our army now consists of people who were civilians, who came after the full-scale Russian invasion of our territory. They joined the ranks of the struggle against this evil," said Bohdan. 

The unit functions at the top of the 128th brigade's spear, hauling vital communications and surveillance equipment forward. 

"We look for opportunities, repeat our traditions, which have been handed down for almost 101 years," said Bohdan. 

For over a century the 128th has trained for mountain assaults, but on the plains of southeastern Ukraine, there are no mountains, nothing to go around or over — only "vpered" — forward. 


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