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Soldiers in the spotlight

By 2nd Lt. Alexandre Barbé
First published in
SFOR Informer#111, April 18, 2001

As twins, family, uniform, studies, unit, rank - everything is common to them, but they are only brothers. Paratroopers, belonging to the 98th Airborne Division based in Ivanova in Russia, Alexander and Vassili Soshenko, both master sergeants, start their second tour in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the 1st Peacekeeping Russian Separate Airborne Brigade (PRSAB) in Ugljevik.
"We've been here once before, for 18 months starting (in) 1998. This second tour will be for 14 months. It's a long time, but serving here is an honour for a soldier," declared Alexander, who joined the paratroopers in 1989 and has jumped about 547 times.
Another peculiarity, not the least, they are both members of Special Forces. They speak English, but also the local language, a condition of their jobs within SFOR mission. Before coming, they followed a particular training, ready to intervene if needed. "To become a 'spetnatz,' you must be physically and mentally strong, sharpshooter and skilled in hand-to-hand combat," explained Vassili. He joined the army in 1993 and has already recorded 340 jumps.
Although both of them have served in real combat missions during the last years, their mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina is quieter. "Every day we leave on a mission to carry out inspections of weapons storage sites, as well as hot spots, and we lead reconnaissance missions," stressed Alexander.
During their tour, the two brothers experienced three skills: to be patient, to keep calm and take the appropriate decisions, sometimes quickly.
But what they most prefer is the contact with the local population. "We like the country and the population. We're peacekeepers and we'd like to help them to set up peace," said both. Not the run-of-the-mill mission for two out of the ordinary brothers.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Russia