A man stopped our car at one of the areas controlled by militants. He was holding AK-100 machinegun, which is in service in the Russian army, in his hands. Carefully examining the "Niva" carbody with holes from bullets, he asked us about the direction of movement and advised us to return, saying that soon there would be Ukrainian soldiers, whom they were eagerly waiting for. When he approached a little bit closer and looked inside the car, he had even stiffened, realizing who was before him. We decided not to touch him, in order to watch what he would do next. Lowering the machinegun, the insurgent has left. There was no doubt: it was an ambush
Serhiy told us this story, when we met him in the village of Divychky located in Kiev oblast. There, he participated in the All-army meeting of petty officers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This event was symbolic for him, because, in some way, it has summed up his career of the Sergeant-Major.
More than a decade ago, the warrior had to become the face of the "Viysko Ukrayiny" magazine in 2005. A photo of a young paratrooper in camouflage cloak was on the cover. The face was covered with combat camouflage makeup, the hands were holding weapons. His eyes radiated confidence and determination. Then, I had no idea under what circumstances we'll have to meet him again.
The man has not only passed military service and all the steps of the primary NCO positions, but has also become the Chief Petty Officer of the brigade, and now, continues to serve in the rank of a junior officer. Serhiy is the native of Cherkasy oblast. Before the army, he received the profession of a teacher of English language and literature. But this purely peaceful profession has extremely lacked romance for him.
He managed to finally realize what his life lacks in 2004, when he joined the army and started his service in the 95th separate airborne brigade. The command has immediately noticed the young man's abilities and appointed him to the position of the reconnaissance company sniper. He got caught in the camera lens exactly on one of the tactical exercises.
During his military service, Serhiy has participated in peacekeeping missions in Kosovo several times. Later, when he passed training of Marines in the United States, Sergeant Mahlovanyi received his combat training specialist diploma.
Since the beginning of the Russian aggression, Serhiy together with his comrades-in-arms has been in the most dangerous areas. First, it was the Crimean direction. There, the paratroopers ensured the withdrawal of our troops out to the mainland of Ukraine. Later, when warfare started in the East of our state, the 95th airborne brigade was one of the first to be deployed in Dobropillia.
Under the direction of Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, an experienced commander, Colonel at that time, Serhiy and his sworn comrades took part in a raid to the rear of the enemy. The paratroopers were assigned to withdraw Ukrainian units near the borders of Russia from the blockade.
The American military expert Phillip Karber called the operation as one of the longest raids in the world military history. Generally, paratroopers overcame 400 kilometers by fights.
The raid began from Savur-Mohyla. In August 2014, breaking through the defense of separatists, paratroopers made a march to Mariupol and, returning along the border, came to Slovyansk. On that day, reconnaissance worked in the advanced guard of the battalion tactical group of the Ukrainian security officials. The fellows knew that every mistake will cost life not only to them, but also to those who moved after them.
– The three of us drove in a civil car, – Serhiy recalls. – The front passenger seat was dismantled for convenience. The driver was at the driving wheel, and the two of us were behind him. Reconnaissance tasks are rather easy. There is a route, and we must identify the enemy ambush there, in the meantime, we mustn't put our main strength under the attack.
So, when at one of such areas, a man with a machinegun in his hands stopped the car and initially, mistook them for his forces and advised to turn back, the scouts understood – there was an ambush ahead.
– When the combatant realized who was before him, he has even changed in the face, – Serhiy said. – We decided to let him go and watch where he would go. Assessing the situation, the warriors contacted the commander and received an order to "revert". The command decided to carry out reconnaissance in force to preserve its main strength. Paratroopers had to find out how many mercenaries were there on their way and what forces and means they really had. Having regrouped, we moved forward. The column was headed by a tank, APCs were on each side. This deployment of the equipment reminded an armored wedge, inside of which there were service men.There was a little curve in the road in 150 meters away from the venue with separatists. As soon as the tank bypassed this area, mercenaries opened fire.
– I was within the "box" with my comrades, – Serhiy says. – Separatists have opened a dense fire. We opened fire in response, trying to simultaneously reveal their firing points.
Soon, mercenaries used a rocket anti-tank launcher. Four shots hit the tower of the combat vehicle. Serhiy was thrown from the tank with an explosive wave, and he felt the taste of blood in his mouth. Severe headache did not give the opportunity to soberly assess the situation. The next moment, the scout jumped into the APC, which moved behind the tank.
- The medical instructor that was there, brought me to life in a matter of minutes, – Mahlovanyi continues. – It turned out that I had got a severe concussion. Later, unfortunately, it reminded of itself. But then, I thought only about fellows who were under the enemy's fire, and the task we had received from the command. The minutes spent in a combat vehicle seemed as if they lasted for hours. Eventually, we managed to push the matter through.
That day, the scouts caught a well trained and equipped militants' ambush. Within three days, the paratroopers attacked that fortified sector twice a day. Later, it turned out that military professionals from Russia arranged the area. It had a primary and a spare positions.
There even were a communications center, kitchen and medical center arranged in the dugouts. According to the estimates of paratroopers, the fortified sector was held by about a hundred mercenaries. Almost every one of them was armed with grenade launchers, besides small arms.
Now, Mahlovanyi is again at the forefront, but in a different role. He is an HR deputy commander of the reconnaissance company. The recon company became almost a second family for Serhiy. And he does not regret that some time he decided to change the profession of a teacher into the military men.