*Author’s Note: This blog entry is a bit shorter than normal. Sorry, free time was difficult to find this weekend. After this blog I’m going to devote the next two or three to getting D+7 started. After which, I’ll go back and conclude the first Snapshots of War narrative. I hope you all had a good weekend!*
It was a testament to the former division commander that the 27th Guards MRD was so well prepared. The commanders, and staff officers of the lead regiments were familiar with the division assault plan, objectives, and timetables, and specifically the roles their units were to play. The pre-assault artillery barrage began a few moments early, and the fire protection phase lasted approximately fifty-seven minutes. In between pulses of rocket and artillery fire flights of MiG-27s came in at tree-top level screaming west. The fixed-wing aircraft were followed shortly thereafter by attack helicopters. The reconnaissance companies of the lead regiments were on the move by then too, keeping just behind the impacting artillery as they sought out the first line of enemy positions. Also moving were the first echelons of the assault regiments. Everything flowed much like it had in countless peacetime field exercises.
American artillery then began to make its presence felt. Counter-battery fire was directed at the Soviet guns and rocket-launchers that had unleashed the punishing bombardments. Around the same time, the lead recon companies reported they were encountering American cavalry elements. The next reports indicated American attack helicopters had joined the fray and were engaging Soviet vehicles with missile fire.
As Gurenko and his regimental staff officers finished loading their modified BTR-80 command vehicles and set off for the forward CP, he was satisfied with how the opening phase of the battle appeared to be going. Radio communications were not possible during the drive forward so he could not keep up with events while on the road. For the next thirty minutes he’d be out of the information loop. But given how things appeared to be going, Gurenko didn’t think this would be an issue.
The ride forward ended up taking nearly double the estimated amount of time. The drivers had wisely opted to stay clear of the main roads, using secondary roads and forest trails to lessen the chances of being spotted by enemy aircraft. The lead driver managed to get the mini-convoy lost three times. When they finally did reach the forward CP, Gurenko went right to work.
This forward command post consisted of a pair of hastily and recently constructed bunkers. Troops and officers dismounted from the BTRs and started lugging equipment and radios into what would be their new home for at least the next six hours. Perhaps longer. As this was going on, a smaller party of regiment personnel was setting up shop at an alternate CP six kilometers away.
They were inside the Federal Republic, but just barely. The tree-lined ridge that this CP was dug into lay two kilometers west of the border. The close proximity to the fighting was evident in everything from the columns of smoke spiraling upward to the west, the not too distant thunder of small arms fire, and tank guns firing, and the smells. The odors emphatically brought home the reality to Gurenko that he was on the doorstep of war. Diesel, cordite, and the sharp stench of burning armored vehicles stung his nostrils.
This was what he’d spent practically his entire adult life preparing for, he decided quickly. The realization deserved a more introspective analysis, but this was neither the time or the place for it. Gurenko promised himself if he were alive in the evening he’d find the time to reflect further.