This blog entry is a continuation of a previous story, but it can be read as a standalone feature. The screenshots may appear dark, but I felt that brightening them up would destroy the ambiance.
History will surely say we were caught with our pants down. The truth is that we knew they were to attack that morning. The amount of intelligence we had was large enough to include timetables, primary objectives and even the amount of mortar rounds available to them. As for anybody else, the conspicuous absence of civilians (shoppers, merchants and the marshrutka dealers for illegal crossings) at both sides of the Zugdidi bridge was sufficient warning.
I was assigned to deploy a squad of combat engineers near one of the minor bridges within Zugdidi proper. For some reason, the battalion commander wanted those men deployed after the start of the hostilities. I could have flown them earlier. I had my helicopter up and running half an hour before the first Abkhazian rounds came in.
|The mortar barrage was large enough to decimate the border control post at the Inguri river bridge.|
|After a quick takeoff from the tactical command post, we headed west towards the city of Zugdidi. The air was crisp and cold enough to guarantee no surprises in the lifting of the Huey.|
|We continuously monitored the battalion's comms net and the reports of Abkhazian attack helicopters prompted us to a waiting area close to a ZU -23 anti aircraft gun.|
|The landing zone is a big open park at the center of the city. A ZU-23 overlooks the airspace above it.|
|After landing, the troops were unloaded promptly.|
|The second Mi-24 had no option but to continue ahead, overflying our position (we are unloading troops close to the road, to the right of the image).|
|The ZU-23 nearby opened up and saved us from a being caught in our precarious position.|
|The Abkhazian Mi-24 crash landed a few miles away.|
|Immediately after the enemy MI-24 went out of sight, we took off from the landing zone and headed east towards the command post. On the watch for any other enemy attack helicopter, we kept our flight path aligned with the positions of AAA guns.|
|We landed at the tactical command post at 0610, with an intact bird and four adrenaline-loaded crew members.|