Enfant Perdu Vol. I

Enfant Perdu Vol. I

Kandahar to Kharkiv

“… we were on a raid in this village we have been in multiple times before, and I remember an airburst round hitting right over us, maybe 10 meters from me and my kevlar smacking the side of a wall.”

    Brian served as an 11B, Infantryman, in the United States Army from 2015 to 2019. His first unit would be the 173rd Airborne Brigade which operates in the US Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe. His stint with the 173rd afforded him the unique opportunity of deploying to Ukraine prior to the Russian Invasion. From Fall of 2015 to Spring of 2016 he was deployed in support of Fearless Guardian II where US soldiers trained various units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces with emphasis on their National Guard.

“We were staying in these Soviet style barracks, it was pretty interesting to see. We were actually training them out of Yavoriv, the base that got hit in the beginning of the war, it killed some international guys. Occasionally we’d get a “cultural immersion” day and we’d go to Lviv to see what life was like for Ukrainians, which was cool. Of course all the dudes brought a surplus of patches and souvenirs to trade every time we worked  with or came across a new unit and made friends with some of them here and there.”

    After finishing his time there he would go to join his second unit, the 82nd Airborne Division and would subsequently go to deploy to Afghanistan where he spent time in Kabul and Kandahar from 2017 to 2018. Coalition combat operations had died down since 2014 but the country was still very much at war and the Taliban were still active. Brian experienced both rocket attacks and a VBIED attack during his time there. He worked in the security detail for specific parties, ensuring their security while on key leader engagements. By this point Brian weighed his career options, what he wanted out of life and occupational goals. Having been on the fence already, the climate in his immediate command was the nail in the coffin for him. Brian finished his enlistment honorably and was discharged from the Army after completion of service in June of 2019.

    He gave his shot at the civilian world, enrolling in college and also working a regular job, but like many before him and no doubt many after him, the life simply did not fit. By 2021 he was employed by Continuity Global Solutions for an overseas contracting gig in Kosovo. This would be relatively short-lived. The Russian buildup on the Ukrainian borders captivated his attention, something he and his friends kept an eye on.

“When the Russians invaded it honestly surprised me, I was a little shocked. I figured you know they had to be bluffing, but they weren’t. I ended up not returning to the contracting gig, I sat down with my wife and told her ‘I’m going one way or another.’ She was reluctant, obviously, but she understood why and has been supportive of it the entire time. I already had my shit packed and ready to go, so I just booked a flight. I flew out on April 4th - which - was kind of fucked up on my part since April 4th is my wife’s birthday, but I’ve made up for it and she’s forgiven me. I flew into Warsaw and was there for maybe 10 hours before taking a taxi to the border and a bus into Lviv. I was supposed to link up with the Georgian Legion, but as I got into country, one of their handlers gave me a call and said that one of their bases had been attacked and they couldn’t onboard new joins. I was like ‘Well fuck.’ - luckily I happened to come across a lady who was able to take me to a conscription center. They asked me what my capabilities were and I told them about my experience in and out of uniform. They folded me into an SSO unit. I was the only American in this team at the time, but I was able to speak a little Russian and Ukrainian which helped me out.”

    Brian’s SSO (Ukrainian Special Operations) team got sent to the Kharkiv Region. For the next month, Brian would experience what he hadn’t truly experienced in his military service, direct action with a conventional fighting force. His team would operate primarily outside of the city, conducting reconnaissance, patrols and direct action raids or assaults on Russian occupied villages and settlements.

“One of our first ops was probably the most intense one. From the start I just had weird vibes, something just didn’t sit right, ya know? We reached this intersection near the village and there was an old bandage on the ground from a previous mission, bloodied and used. The weird thing is next to the bandage was a disemboweled cat. I just thought this was weird as fuck. Anyways we ended up advancing onto the village. When it kicked off, this was my first really intense combat. It honestly took me a second to orient myself but then my training kicked in. Everyone maneuvered as they should have, we had talking guns when an airburst hit our position, it exploded probably ten meters from me. I remember my kevlar smacking against a wall. We ended up having to break contact and we took 8 casualties that op. We took off during the exfil as their arty came in. I remember getting to cover and just throwing up. I think some of us may have been had a small concussion or something from the airburst.”

    In Mid-May his SSO team was taken off the line and brought back to Kyiv. From May to July his team would go to different areas, conducting route clearance, reconnaissance, advising and assisting, training, filling in various fighting positions and also doing ambulance work.

“When we were in the fighting positions, there was a lot of indirect fire. Artillery, mortars, grad rockets etc. There was an incident where we were doing an exfil from a village we were in. The Russians started trying to hit us on our way it. It was either white phosphorus or 9M22S, it lit up the road behind us and started burning the trees and brush where it landed. It also lit up some of the houses near the edge of the village. Had we been a few minutes behind schedule it probably would have smoked us.”

Brian would go home in July and spend time with his family, making preparations for a future return and getting his house ready. He has since returned to Ukraine and begun working with the GUR, the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

“I flew back, this was actually my first time flying first class and man, I will never fly coach again. My time with GUR has been a little different than my first rotation.”

    He operates at a forward undisclosed location with GUR, training up his unit. In terms of rank, he is in a position which would equate in power to a platoon commander. He now works almost entirely with international volunteers. He’s been pressing his command to get him back out to the front where he wishes to continue his service. Brian has established a rotational plan which will afford him the opportunity to continue his work in Ukraine while also dedicating time to his family. He does not see himself ending these rotations until the war is over.