• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Meet the Ukrainian Defenders: (5) Junior Sergeant Dmytro Nichenko – KyivPost

ByElla E. Kidwell

Jun 7, 2022

As military jobs go, Junior Sergeant Dmytro Nichenko occupies reasonably tolerable housing. He leads a maintenance team in one of the best brigades in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and the mechanics he is in charge of are competent.

Their daily routine is simple: bring down broken down or downed trucks and get combat vehicles back on the road.

Even though their garage is still vulnerable to Russian missile attacks, the mechanics are quite far from the shots.

But Ninchenko. is from Mariupol, and he has not heard from his wife, son or daughter since mid-March. All he knows of their house is that Russian shells tore through the exterior, tore through the yard and smashed all the windows. He has no idea about water and gas pipes.

His neighbors, still located behind enemy lines, tell him that the house is still standing, but that his family is no longer there.

“I think about them all the time,” the 28-year-old professional soldier told the Kyiv Post in an interview. “But I can’t do much else.” A native of Vinnytsya in central Ukraine, Ninchenko has five years of service in the Ukrainian Armed Forces under his belt.

He met his wife, who is from a seaside village in Azov and also serves in the army, while both attended military school.

Their son had just started kindergarten before the war started. Using savings, loans and a lot of do-it-yourself effort, the Ninchenkos had built a house in Mariupol Kalmiusky District, a residential area on the northern outskirts of the city. It was almost over when the Russians arrived.

The worst damage to the house came at the start of the fighting, he said, because when Russian Federation (RF) troops surrounded Mariupol, Nichenko’s house was only a few hundred meters away. behind the positions of the Ukrainian army.

Fighting eventually continued, but for most of two months Russian bullets, shells and rockets pounded Kalmiusky District. The power supply of the Nichenko house – and the communications between Ninchenko and his wife and children – failed in the first week of the war.

Ninchenko now lives in an industrial building with rooms converted into dormitories. He shares his room with several other NCOs (NCOs). He gets up early, washes up and eats breakfast – the day of the Kyiv Post visit, which consisted of oatmeal and tea.

Then it’s off to work – on a Soviet-era asphalt parking lot full of infantry fighting vehicles, armored cars, trucks, buses, 18-wheeler trucks, vans, trailers and cannons. All are broken in some way, and more than a few are marked in white with the letters “Z” or “V” used by Russian troops. His workplace is in a half-finished brick building.

Junior Sergeant Dmitro Ninchenko briefs drivers and mechanics on the day’s tasks (MAKS PILIPENKO)

The first and usually the only more or less formal meeting of the day takes place with the maintenance officers of the 50th Mechanized Infantry Brigade. There is a blackboard listing the condition of vehicles, assigned drivers and mechanics, and notes on missing parts.

Posters on the wall warn drivers to be careful and everyone to be safe. Ninchenko usually directs the repair of four- or six-wheeled vehicles, usually trucks. On average, one or two trucks enter and one or two leave each day. There are no rest days.

The only way to get decent work gloves is to buy them yourself. There are no hydraulic jacks, few power tools, and tire bolts are loosened and tightened the old-fashioned way: with a lug wrench and backforce.

Maintenance in the Ukrainian Armed Forces is led by the driver, who performs simple tasks like oil changes and brake pad changes, under the supervision of one of Ninchenko’s mechanics.

If it’s something more complicated, like replacing seals or dismantling an engine, one of Ninchenko’s jobs is to decide whether the driver is competent to do it and what outside help he really needs. need.

The maintenance workshop has its own tools, but, Ninchenko said, virtually every driver has their own tool kit. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are too poor to provide tools for truck drivers, so if they want a set, the options are to buy tools themselves, hoping that a group of volunteers will donate the right tool, or putting the five-finger shed on abandoned Russian army vehicles containing a tool kit, he says.

Sometimes UAF trucks are horribly damaged. A large artillery shell can, in the worst case, knock an engine off its mounts, bend a drive shaft or, Ninchenko recalls, obliterates the driver’s cabin so completely that mechanics can’t even find a trace of the seats.

Junior Sergeant Dmitro Ninchenko points out a detail of the vehicle to his military colleagues in a maintenance workshop operated by the 50th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (MAKS PILIPENKO)

In most armies, let alone peacetime civilian life, he said, vehicles in such condition would be written off and left with the insurance company.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces cannot afford this luxury, so about half of the 50th Brigade’s trucks are either slowly being cannibalized into carcasses or waiting for another less well-endowed vehicle to donate an essential part.

The trucks in this war, Ninchenko said, are expendable items that will soon be damaged beyond their usefulness, well before the end of their official lifespan. The day job of a UAF mechanic is not long term maintenance, they do what is possible to keep a vehicle running a little longer before it is destroyed.

Ninchenko told the Kyiv Post that the UAF paid him on time, that there were bonuses for working in a front line sector, and that between doing nothing but occupying himself and sleeping, and not having no way to contact his family or send them money, he managed to save some money.

After the war, he wants to return to Mariupol. Ninchenko believes that the UAF will take over the city. When they do, he will finish building his house. He said he hopes to find his family, but he doesn’t know when that will be.

REMARK: Kyiv Post reporters were accompanied by a UAF press liaison officer while researching the story. The brigade command requested that the designation of its unit and the identity of the soldiers not be made public for security reasons. The 50th Brigade is a pseudonym, as are the names of soldiers. The real identities are known to Kyiv Post.

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