During ForUm's visit, the President's regiment was preparing to the 21st anniversary of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Soldiers were training and practicing exhibition performances.
"President's regiment is a military unit accompanying state official ceremonies. For civilians it is first of all the guards of honour, whom they see on TV," Serhiy Mykhailenko, deputy commander in chief of the President's regiment on education work, told ForUm. He also informed that apart from guards of honor there are special operations soldiers, snipers, maintainers and field communications crewmen. However, the military man refused to answer the detailed questions referring to the military secret.
According to Mykhailenko, candidates get enlisted in the regiment on a competitive basis. "We select candidates among draftees of all military enlistment offices in the country as well as among militaries of high mobility forces and special forces. The requirements to candidates are high. Recruits must have excellent health, senior secondary education, no police records and ... minimum height of 1.80 m. It is interesting that draftees from Kyiv are not accepted to the regiment. Anyway, we have sufficient number of candidates to choose from," he said.
ForUm asked one of the soldiers, a guard of honor Yaroslav Yarovoy from Zaporizhya, about how the service in the regiment is. "I was eager to be enrolled in the President's regiment, because it is prestigious and responsible. It was not easy to meet all the requirements, but I passed and I have been serving for eight months already," Yaroslav said.
The soldier has another four months to go and he recalls his days before the first exhibition show with a smile. "It is difficult to realize whether you are ready or not for the event with participation of state officials. You will know when you are already at the place. My first show took place after three months of service. We were supposed to perform in the Officers' Club and meet the defense minister and foreign delegations. There also was the Prime Minister of Ukraine. I was so nervous... However, this feeling appears before every performance. Even after eight months of service, I still experience excitement, especially if the event program includes the participation of the President. The excitement goes away only when you start the very performance. The training takes over," the soldier told. Within the time, all soldiers get used to the responsibility and miss their first days.
Strangers before coming here, the soldiers become a family. "We have friendly relations in the regiment. Though we arrived from different parts and did not know each other before, we became friends very fast. It is difficult to serve in the army and not to have friends. It was difficult to get used to the fact there were no parents around. I stopped missing them badly only after five months. I am already used to the order and discipline," he said smiling.
Of course, the soldiers did not tell us all details of the service. They keep the army secrets and do not speak about family willingly. They miss their families and home cuisine. However, they understand that in two months they will have to leave. Someone will continue military carrier, someone will go home and someone will try to stay in Kyiv.
Despite small portions of food, rooms for eight persons and severe discipline, they do not want to leave. Though the army discipline only escalates anxiety for freedom, the habit becomes the second nature. Soldierly appearance, military step and ability to carry arms will always distinguish them from the crowd. It is hard to believe that guards of honour, these tall and strong men in formal military are in fact 18-year-old boys, or rather were boys. The army has made them responsible men, strong morally and physically and able to meet challenges.
Tetyana Hryhorieva, photos by Viktor Kovalchuk
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