Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
What it's like being a Russian mercenary in Syria
Good pay, bad food and corruption. That's the life of a Russian mercenary in Syria, according to one veteran who's glad to be out of there.
Earlier this year, the Russian newspaper Sobesednik published an interview (English translation here) with a Russian ex-soldier who just returned from Syria after working as a private military contractor, or PMC.
Aleksander (not his real name) was a combat-experienced former Russian artillery officer. Eager to pay off his mortgage, he joined a PMC through a friend of a friend who had just returned from contract military work in Syria.
"You sign a contract, but everyone understands that it is a worthless piece of paper," Aleksander told the newspaper. "Mine did not even have a seal, just signatures. An LLC [limited liability corporation] something or other. A name I do not even remember because it is impossible to find if anything happens, registered in the Virgin Islands. I flew out in March and spent the next six months in the middle of Syria, north of Palmyra, practically in the desert."
His pay was 200,000 rubles (US$3,100) a month. That's a paltry sum compared to pay at U.S. private military contractors, where pay can be as high as $23,000 a month, or more than a quarter-million dollars per year. But 200,000 rubles seemed a bonanza for someone accustomed to the low salaries and poor living conditions faced by Russian soldiers.
"Maybe in Moscow people get this kind of money working in offices, but for the majority of those who go to 'make war,' this is an unrealistically huge amount," Aleksander explained.
The pay was good, but not the equipment. "Equipment is usually your own, brought from Russia. There are no mobile phones. You can, of course, get a phone locally, but after several scandals with fighters taking pictures at secret locations and posting them on social media, control became stricter for disclosing information. You could easily get sent home without being paid a single ruble."
Not to mention the food was lousy. "Canned food, rice, and pasta. They would drop off a few bags for a group for a month and we gradually ate through them. The fighters laughed that this food was the most dangerous factor of the entire deployment. It is impossible to survive more than six months on it."
Luckily for Aleksander and his comrades, the rebels battling the Syrian government and their Iranian and Russian allies have mostly been crushed. But not totally crushed. "There is no fierce fighting in Syria anymore. Officially, the military operation is over. But skirmishes and shootouts are a common thing."
In fact, one reason the insurgency continues is corruption. "Our main currency there was ammunition," Aleksander recalled. "Sell 10 to 15 cartridges to a middleman, get several packs of cigarettes, alcohol, or some better gear."
After six months, Aleksander returned home, a little richer, his body and mind intact and yet disgusted and disillusioned. "I fulfilled my personal task. I returned alive. I did not participate in the obvious dirt that follows you in nightmares for the rest of your life. I paid off the mortgage, which is why I went to Syria, and remained in good standing with the commanders.
"They are calling me back. But I will not go. I had enough; it is anarchy and lawlessness there. The country after the war is even worse than it was during the war."This article originally appeared on The National Interest.
More from The National Interest:
- How Big Should the U.S. Navy Actually Be?
- A-10 Pilot Explains All of the Reasons 'the Flying Tank' Will Beat Any Foe
- Russia Makes Some of the Deadliest Weapons on Earth
WATCH NEXT: The U.S. Flattens A Russian-Made Tank In Syria
The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would allow service members to seek compensation when military doctors make mistakes that harm them, but they would still be unable to file medical malpractice lawsuits against the federal government.
On Monday night, Congress announced that it had finalized the NDAA, which must be passed by the House and Senate before going to President Donald Trump. If the president signs the NDAA into law, it would mark the first time in nearly seven decades that U.S. military personnel have had legal recourse to seek payment from the military in cases of medical malpractice.
A major serving at U.S. Army Cyber Command has been charged with distributing child pornography, according to the Justice Department.
Maj. Jason Michael Musgrove, who is based at Fort Gordon, Georgia, has been remanded to the U.S. Marshals service, a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia says.
Navy senior leaders could decide whether or not to approve the new I-Boot 5 early in 2020, said Rob Carroll, director of the uniform matters office at the Chief of Naval Personnel's office.
"The I-Boot 5 is currently wrapping up its actual wear test, its evaluation," Carroll told Task & Purpose on Monday. "We're hoping that within the first quarter of calendar year 2020 that we'll be able to present leadership with the information that they need to make an informed decision."
Oklahoma Congresspeople slam private housing contractor at Tinker Air Force Base for negligence, fraud
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn leveled harsh criticism last week at the contractor accused of negligence and fraudulent activity while operating private housing at Tinker Air Force Base and other military installations.
Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, referred to Balfour Beatty Communities as "notorious." Horn, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told a company executive she was "incredibly disappointed you have failed to live up to your responsibility for taking care of the people that are living in these houses."
The Saudi national who killed three students on a U.S. Naval Air station in Pensacola was in the United States on a training exchange program.
On Sunday, Sen. Rick Scott said the United States should suspend that program, which brings foreign nationals to America for military training, pending a "full review."