By way of the blog, I was contacted by an old Iraq War buddy, Sergeant First Class Mike G. while I was in Russia heading east on the trans-Siberian Railway. He inquired if I would be passing through Mongolia. When I told him that I was he sent some emails off to his Mongolian Army buddies and asked them to give me a tour around Ulaanbaatar. Captain Shin of the 84th Mongolian Airborne contacted me by email and cellular and we made plans to tour his base. Unfortunately, I was unable to meet with him the week that he called as I was flying out to Bayan Ulgi to go eagle hunting. On my return I was able to meet up with him and he took me for a tour of his base.
The week following my visit the entire unit was to conduct an airborne parachute drop and when I came they were preparing for the upcoming mission. Most of the men were packing their parachutes and practicing their jump procedures.
Captain Shin showed me how the soldiers inspected their chutes starting first with examining the lines. We went through the packing procedures and he explained how the chute and reserve chute worked as well as the different parachute manufacturers; the team used Israeli, Russian, and American parachutes.
Captain Shin and I; we joked that I was too tall to be an Airborne Soldier and that I would likely bump my head on the airplane door as I jumped out of the airplane.
This soldier is wearing an Israeli (green) parachute. Captain Shin told me that when the Israelis sold them parachutes, they “forgot” to include the reserve chutes. The “quick fix” was to rig the Israeli gear with a Russian reserve chutes (tan on the soldier’s stomach).
The soldiers jumped on the trampoline and practiced their falls; it was explained that it is important to land properly when landing on a military parachute as a bad landing can result in a broken ankle or worse. By practicing over and over the correct landing and roll become second nature when they actually perform the jump.
Later, Captain Shin took me for a tour of the command headquarters including a view of the “wall of fame” that included unit awards and gifts from allied nations airborne units that the 84th trained and worked with.
I noticed some photos of previous jumps on the wall and Captain Shin explained these photos (below) to me. Each man puts some money under a target and the man that lands on top of the target gets to take the money. It was a friendly and challenging way to encourage competition and accuracy in the jumps.
The jump that the unit was performing the following week was going to be a “forest jump” wherein they would parachute over and descend into a forest. Of course, the result is that the parachute gets hung up in the tree leaving the paratrooper hanging above the ground. I asked Cpt. Shin how the men get down. He explained that one tactic was to open the reserve chute and let it fall out to the ground. The trooper then opens his parachute harness (while still holding on) and slides down the reserve chute lines. It sounds a bit dangerous to me. I suppose that this is why they are paid special jump pay. LOL
Following the tour of the headquarters building, Captain Shin took me to the DFAC (dining facility, i.e. Army cafeteria) and treated me to an honest and robust Mongolian soldier’s lunch. Inside the cafeteria we saw the base commander and Cpt. Shin brought me over and introduced me to him. He invited us to sit at his table and we enjoyed a hearty lunch of noodles and goat meat, some soup (with goat meat), bread and chai (tea) with horse milk. It was a very cold day and we were all happy to be inside the warm dining hall and we talked about the Mongolian military, my Army service, and eventually about the weather. The Colonel told me that I should eat some horse meat saying, “Horse meat is good for cold weather, it gives you strength when it is cold outside.” Baatar had told me that horse meat was very popular with the Kazakhs and that occasionally the Mongolians ate horse. I asked Captain Shin about it and he said that usually they only ate horse in the winter as it is believed to give you extra strength during cold weather.
After lunch I posed in front of this Mi-8 “Hip” helicopter and Captain Shin shot my photo. This large bird is the primary troop transport helicopter in Russia and in the previous Soviet Union and allied countries. This model rests on the ground and the men practice jumping out of it while it is stationary on the ground.
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