Russian Navy

The Godson of Aden Gulf

Long before the enrollment Artyom Fedorov had chosen his future place of study – Marine platoon of Kazan Higher Military School. But the bait was not foppishly tilted antra-black beret; there was no any pathetic romanticism in his choice. He had made an unambiguous decision – to serve only in operational forces!

Lt. A. FEDOROV, Marine company commander

When studying, Artyom not even once doubted or regretted about the choice made. Neither does he now, after two years of officer service in Baltic Fleet's independent Guards Marine Brigade. Two years of large-scale exercises, overseas cruises, and high confidence of brigade command realized in promotion of the young officer to the post of company commander...

The Marines. Striking force of coastal troops. Bravery and honor of "black berets". To serve here is an esteemed and prideworthy privilege.

However, service in Marine comprehends both honor and infinite work. So, opening of Artyom's officer career was also pretty "hot". He just came on the post of platoon commander and instantly a battalion tactical exercise started. Tight schedule of Fleet's combat training gave no time for "getting into groove".

Amphibious landing at Khmelevka Range, armored march to Pavenkovo Range, preparing defensive position, launching the offensive. During those first maneuvers, the young officer recalled school lectures and skills obtained at tactical probation. This knowledge is being practically realized now, along with gaining commander experience, skills in unit control and leadership of subordinates.

Marine service is whatsoever but boring and monotonous. They let Artyom to understand it right after graduation. Trainings, drills, field maneuvers, various exercises, service on duty – whole range of military tasks. And sometimes special tasks as well.

One of such missions is active service aboard cruising ships. Everything was new for Artyom Fedorov, who is native of hinterland Kazan. For instance, ship rocking (although he got accustomed very soon), ship routine and living conditions. But the officer did not throw up his hands and got over difficulties.

"We shipped out on destroyer Nastoychivy", recalls his first cruise Guards Lt. Fedorov. "My 24-men group was divided into subgroups and sailed both on the destroyer and on escort missile boats. We were at the exercise for one and half month and paid official calls at foreign ports.

Among tasks of marines aboard are protection and defense of the ship, day-night security, prevention of small-size water crafts approach. To accomplish those tasks, there are various measures – picketing, defining firing points, appointing responsibility sectors. Marines serving aboard keep hold of their arms day and night. Nowadays the necessity of such units is dictated by time, when the word "terror" is fixed in our vocabulary having become regular in worldwide news. Even a powerful warship is not protected from potential terror assault. We ought to watch out...

In Aug 2008 – only after one year of officer service – profile of platoon commander Lt. Fedorov contained record of first combat cruise. Upon returning he managed to rest a part of his leave when came a new order to prepare next group for cruise. New place of service is frigate Neustrashimy. Russian Navy was obliged to enhance navigation security in the Gulf of Aden acrawl with pirates and sea-robbers of all stripes.

There were lots of stories about Russian sailors chasing Somali pirates. The situation at the region was really complicated.


The Gulf of Aden is situated between southwest part of Arabia and northeast Africa. It stretches 890 km west-to-east and about 300 km north-to-south. Three countries are located on its coast – Yemen, Djibouti and Somali. Average summer temperature is +27°C, winter temperature is +17°C. Sea disturbance varies from grades 1-2 in summertime to grades 3-5 in winter.

Somali pirates have become the main regional problem since 2004, although cases of piracy happened there since 1996. During last year the corsairs of XXI century attacked 156 vessels, 42 ships were hijacked. In 2008 pirates got over $160 mln as redeem. Total piracy damage of the region is evaluated as $5 bln.

Pirates are equipped and armed with small arms and grenade launchers, comm systems including GPS navigators and satellite phones, large and small vessels, fast attack crafts.

The task of Neustrashimy was escorting civil vessels to Socotra Island in Indian Ocean. The task of marines – direct armed guard of escorted ships.

"Black berets" were getting aboard escorted vessels by boats. Arms and equipment were battle-like: armor vests, lifejackets, steel helmets, 3 ammunition loads per each. The situation required an extreme conscientiousness.

"Basically, convoys consisted of 12 ships", recalls Guards Lt. Fedorov. "Our speed depended on sailing rate of escorted ships. Generally, one way "trip" to Socotra Island took over three days".

Nationality of vessels escorted by Neustrashimy was motley. Different countries, various flags… "What about language barrier?", was my question. That problem resolved simply – each crew had a Russophone sailor; frequently, it was a captain. The interaction formed very quickly.

If necessary, convoys were supported by helicopter took off from Neustrashimy. Not once or twice mariners had to open fire from small arms and DShK machineguns. They fired both for deterrence of potential hijackers (dangerously approached unidentified boats) and to react on fire from those boats. Fortunately, we had no battle losses.

"Pirates were shooting necks", recalls Lt. Fedorov. "They felt themselves rightful masters of the region. They were judges operating with own laws".

One of the nights was extremely "hot" for unit of Lt. Fedorov. Captain of Neustrashimy gave a warning signal then. Suspicious small-size vessels were detected on the ship's course. They didn't react on signals and marines had to open fire. However, boats continued maneuvering until disappeared.

In the morning the incident site was examined and an abandoned boat was found. That was small vessel with powerful motor and impressive number of fuel tanks. Everything was indicative of pirate activity. Probably, the crew decided to leave the boat appeared under fire and escape on sidekicks' vessels.

Pirate motor boat was lifted aboard Russian warship and delivered at Baltic Fleet naval base in Kaliningrad Region. It was decided that Neustrashimy's trophy brought from hot waters of Aden Gulf will become a showpiece of local naval museum.

Russian combat watch near dangerous Somali coast lasted 4.5 months. As a matter of fact, naval units, including Russian marines, put that region under control. Crews of vessels saved from pirate assaults near Horn of Africa will remember the name of Russian warship for long, as well as names of Baltic marines protected them from mortal danger that days.

At last, I ask the officer without hesitation:

"Could you explain the fact that you, being just a 23-year old platoon commander, were entrusted with such a serious task? A governmental mission, in fact..."

"I ask myself too", blushes the lieutenant and seriously adds in a second: "But I think I was equal to expectations".

The evidence of command's appreciation was awarding Guards Lt. Fedorov with Medal "For military merit" and recommendation for appointment to the post of company commander. His predecessor Capt Oleg Luchnikov was appointed battalion executive officer.

So, Fedorov became to be company commander in his 23; he will be 24 as early as November. Currently, the young commander has about hundred subordinates, including three officers and three warrants. Some of them are far elder, but it does not disturb Fedorov as strict subordination is traditional among marines. Certainly, at first there were some attempts to put out claws, recalls Artyom. No matter, he mastered them as was prestigious and forceful enough.

Being yet a company commander, Lt. Fedorov took part in recent Zapad-2009 exercise; his unit landed from small amphibious ship Mordovia and assaulted "enemy" positions at Khmelevka Range. Sweeping storm ashore, bursts and hush of attacking marines – that all was observed by Supreme Commander Dmitry Medvedev attended the exercise final phase. Then he expressed his appreciation of servicemen actions.

Guards Lt. Fedorov is sure that his company also showed its worth at that exercise.

"We were preparing thoroughly – endless training, drills. Our element of the exercise was worked out repeatedly, both landing with storm and separate assault. We trained everything until mistakes were completely eliminated".

"Our tactic is not only attack", says the officer. "It is important to cover each other, protect flanks and rear. Each marine should have his assault objective; seaman or sergeant should know his specific task given by commander".

...Marine is anything but boring job, there is always something to do.

"Today brigade has formed combat training in whole and counter terrorism drills as well", says Guards Lt. Col. Vadim Bekshenev, Brigade Deputy Commander on educational work. "For anti-terror units the emphasis is placed on weapons training. Moral and psychological training is also provided as we talk about special task after all".

Artyom Fedorov is moderate enough as he was tempered by waters of the Baltic and distant Gulf of Aden.

During our talk it was found out that the officer waits for life changes. His young family is going to have a child in autumn. To tell the truth, Artyom mentioned about that casually. That's interesting – another officer would probably cry on newsman's shoulder about long terms without family. Talking with Artyom, I didn't hear anything like that.

Neither did I hear any complaints about domestic problems, although I know that the officer have not apartment yet and his family lives in garrison hostel with public shower and washrooms. Money allowance is not too big either... Honestly, this lieutenant is a cautionary example of attitude for some senior naval officers.

As an epilogue

Guards Col. Alexander Anosov, commander of Baltic Fleet's independent Guards Marine Brigade named Artyom Fedorov among the best brigade's officers. Alexander Anosov also started his "black beret" career from cadet shoulder straps. For him, decades of service in this naval branch are behind now...

"On your opinion, who should serve in Marine now?", was my question to Guards Col. Anosov.

"First of all – professionals, especially if we talk about an officer. He should know military equipment, be able to work with personnel, preserve traditions and support morale of marines. Morale is a component of success. When there's no enthusiasm in mind and in heart, it's very difficult to complete mission.

"Is there any romance in marine service?"

"Romance? Undoubtedly, it should be in service of all who had chosen the military. Of course, there is much more romance in the Marine – sea cruises, opportunity to see the world, large exercises. But on the other hand, that's an extremely hard work as marines act in three environments – air, sea and land. One should remember that marines are always on the peak of attack. That is our will and mission. Therefore, we should answer our purpose and serve properly.

Source: Krasnaya Zvezda, Author: Dmitry SEMENOV. 14.10.09

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