Spetsnaz News from Russia

Competition of the Operators of the Elite Alpha Department

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Posted in column: News Photo: K. Lazarev

On the eve of 30th anniversary of the events in the Darul Amin Palace, at the end of 2014 within military training center in Alabino a traditional competition of the operators of elite Russian Department Alpha (Alpha Group) of the FSB was devoted to the brave “Alphas” who laid down their lives carrying out combat missions.

The elite anti-terrorist unit was established on July 29 1974 by the Director of the former KGB, as a organizational element of the Seventh Department. Long tradition is filled with remarkable deeds of the operators who even gave their lives while carrying out duties and tasks. Today their achievements inspire younger generations of the Russian Special Forces and the unit itself built a great international reputation. The Alpha Group had organized joint training with former Unit for Special Operations for several times in the past (Serb. Jedinica za specijalne operacije) and nowadays friendly relations are kept with the Counter Terrorist Unit-CTU (Serb. Protivteroristička jedinica-PTJ).

The first casualties Alpha Group had during the events by the end of December 1979 when conducting special operation “Storm 333” (Russ. „Шторм-333“) in which “Alphas” were activated in order to take control over the vital facilities in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. On that occasion, the Russian special forces, disguised as Afghani troops, conducted several synchronized raids on the eve of the 27th of December. One of the vital facilities was the Darul Amin Palace and while storming the complex lives laid captains Volkov Dmitry Vasilyevich (Russ. Волков Дмитрий Васильевич) and Yudin Gennady Egorovich (Russ. Зудин Геннадий Егорович). The operation was completed successfully in the early morning hours of December 28, when it was confirmed that all vital facilities in the Afghani capital were under the control of the Russian forces. Their tactics are still studied nowadays all over the world, and for the Russians it is a symbol of professionalism, courage and commitment.

Inspired by the tradition, active operators gathered along with the veterans and began competing in seven disciplines. In order to make this competition fair, teams of shooters were assembled randomly, from every group of the Russian unit, as well present veterans. Thus a team could bring together a veteran, a young operator and an officer, so all of them were able to compare the level of skill, as to determine at what they would have to work more intensively in the future. Bearing in mind the reason of gathering, the main purpose of this competition was not getting the best team, but that all operators, especially younger ones, check the level of their skills and detect possible mistakes.

The three competing disciplines related to the precision shooting at mid distances and for the purpose it was agreed to use Russian SVD-S rifles (Russ. снайперская винтовка Драгунова складная) in 7.62x54 R caliber. It should be underlined here that operators who did not specialized sniping carried out the shooting. In other four disciplines teams were able to choose the type of the weaponry to use: semi-automatic handguns, submachine guns or Kalashnikov assault rifles in various models and configurations.

At shooting ranges where semi-auto handguns had to be used Russian Alphas chose Austrian Glock-17s mostly. Photo: K. Lazarev

The first phase of the competition related to semi-auto handguns shooting. For this occasion Austrian Glock 17 Gen 4, Swiss SIG Sauer P 226 were chosen, all in 9x19 mm Parabellum caliber. The ranking was done by summing the scores for the accuracy and total execution time.

At ranges where assault rifles had to be used, Russian Spetsnaz operators mostly used Kalashnikov systems. Photo: K. Lazarev

In assault rifles disciplines operators were allowed to mount non-magnifying and magnifying sights such as red dot Aimpoint CompM4 and holographic EOTech XPS2-0 combined with flip-to-side magnifying devices of the EOTech brand. The targets were stationary and shooting was performed in a standing, crouching and prone stance, as well as behind improvised covers. Considering the live ammo usage, a great attention was given to safety measures when handling weapons during the shootings as well as during rest periods. In one of the disciplines an unusual situation occurred: a tactical sling of one of the operators snapped while running, resulting in rifle falling to the ground, which caused his disqualification and negative scores to his team. Although judges agreed it was a gear failure, disqualification was vindicated by the fact that in a combat situation this could have emerge as a serious hardship for operator himself, as well as his surrounding teammates. These situations precisely are a warning to every operator to properly maintain his personal gear and weaponry.

Shooting in the prone stance. Photo: K. Lazarev

By completing all the disciplines, at the closing ceremony speeches were held to honor deceased Russian special forces operators and awards were presented to the winning team. The ceremony was attended by the Hero of Russian Federation and Chief of the Alpha Department, Colonel Valery Vladimirovich Khanaqin (Russ. Валерий Владимирович Канакин) who handed the awards to the winners: wooden slingshots as a reminder to constantly improve and that they have no right to make a mistake.

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