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SUNDAY, APRIL 17, 2022

1015H EEST


That day elements of the 78th Brigade were assigned to help the 113rd Territorial Defense Infantry Brigade of the TDF, with attached International Legion elements, to liberate the village of Cherkas'ki Tyshky in Tsyrkuny Township, Kharkiv District, after the township center had been liberated days ago with their help. The infantry and the armored battalions as well as the field artillery battalion equipped with the M777 towed gun as well as a MANPADS battery from one of the air defense battalions were all stationed there and the brigade had just set up its new barracks south of Derhachi town northwest of the city for easy access to the frontlines to the north and to the city itself as well as to avoid Russian artillery shelling. The rest of the brigade is in Korotych to the west awaiting for their move to the new location.

A and B Companies of the 1st Battalion have been the vanguard of the US contribution there for weeks after being relocated from Chernihiv following the successful lifting of the siege there early in the month in which the brigade took part. Now the General Staff of the Armed Forces has noticed that there ARE indeed Americans fighting for Ukraine outside of the International Legion, for the bravery of the 78th has awakened Americans to the truth that this war would soon evolve into a global one or another Cold War, either way would change the world just as the first Cold War was. C Company, the women’s contingent, is now being prepped to move as the last of the 1st Battalion to relocate to Derhachi as the remainder of the brigade would be moved there once an expanded camp is finished thanks to the work of the combat enginers within the unit. Thus the ones on the field now are, together with the battalion HQ company, are A, B, D, E and F Companies, the heavy weapons company and the battalion cannon company affilated with the brigade field artillery battalions.

Joining them in that part of the city's metro area were the 1st Battalion of the 83rd Philadelphia under LTC Thompson and the 1st battalion of the 71st Atlanta led by LTC Seitzer it's commanding officer, which are the reserve formations in this operation and are stationed a few miles away from Tsyrkuny proper. A Company of the 83rd under 1LT Hoskins is with elements of the 1st Battalion. That morning the 1st and 2nd Battalions together with the armor, field and air defense artillery elements, as well as service support elements of the brigade have been on the move together with elements of the 113rd Territorial Defense Brigade of the Territorial Defense to fulfill their objectives north of Kharkiv and to regain parts of its expanded metropolitan area. That morning, in the midst of the hot late spring weather, they are leaving the newly liberated shire town and hromada seat of Tsyrkuny which has been their home for days after assisting in the liberation of that town and are heading westwards on Cooperative Street after leaving the main street of the town towards their objectives of liberating much of the northern half of the township, including Cherkas'ki Tyshky village. Intel states that it is the 200th Brigade, nearest to the city itself, and a battalion of DPR militias are holding on to the northern part of that township after Tsyrkuny had been liberated and the Russian infantrymen, tankers and gunners pushed back north. One or two of the battalions of the 200th are already there in the northwest of the shire town, having retreated following the battle days ago together with the field artillery and tank elements. Most are moving away north, fearful of the advancing Ukrainians chasing them away and setting up new positions. The Bradleys together with 2 companies of M60 Super Pattons and a troop of M3 Bradleys provide the armored escort for the 113rd's battalion battle group and the M777 field guns have been placed south of the township's shire town to provide indirect fire support, with some of the air defense systems on Humvee chassis assigned to the advancing battalion formation.

At the lead M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 2 of them, plus one M113, are the company command and the Ukrainian interpreter of the company always joining them in the first M2, which has the company commander CPT Frazier and his deputies, with the second carrying among others the company lead medic and his XO Captain Troy Tulowitzki. The modernized M113A3 has 1SGT Gose, company first sergeant, on board. Following them are the Bradley IFVs and M1064A3 Mortar Carriers of the platoons. Joining them are Humvee and M113 combat armored ambulances and some others including ammo and signals vehicles assigned to the company behind the infantry as well as 2 MT-LBs assigned to the company HQ and painted in US Army camo, mounted with the M60 machine gun as well as one M4 Bradley FIST for forward artillery observers at the rear of the column. The MT-LBs hold members of the HQ platoon and part of the signals section. One more M4 Bradley FIST is manned by the 113rd's artillery observers and carries the Ukrainian national arms. Following them are elements of A Company of the 1st battalions of the 83rd and 71st led respectively by 1st Lieutenants Hoskins and Duvall on their Bradleys with the rest of the battalions' companies in the main highway with some of the 113rd's personnel together with battalion staff.

Having crossed the road bridge spanning the Kharkiv River, they arrived at 0910H at Cherkas'ki Tyshky, setting up their field HQ for the operation at an open field north of the intersection of Skillnyi and Kalnova Streets with another road leading to a local hotel. The 1st battalion began to mass its forces in coordination with the elements of the 113th Brigade thru the battalion's main Ukrainian Ground Forces liason officer who asks as the interpreter for the battalion and in charge of his fellow Ukrainian personnel assigned to the companies and the battalion HQ doing the same role. The section chef coordinates with the 113th's command for any action the brigade would be doing. Today the brigade is doing battalion level ops with two of the battalions working to fulfill their objectives, and the 78th BCT's 1st and 2nd Battalions has been assigned once more to help them. The main elements of the battalion are assembled there while west of their location are elements of the HQ company with the cannon company stationed east, with guns unlimbered from the M35 carrier trucks and the Avenger air defense systems also located to give much needed air defense power against any Russian Air Force fighter jets, transports and helicopters.

LTC Fenster, battalion commander, is stationed at the intersection with Captains Frazier and Arrietta of A and B Companies together with his battalion staff and their Ukrainian liasons working with the 113th. The D and E company commanders, Captains Ober and Zimmerman, are also there. Joining them are his executive officer, MAJ Sogard, and the company executive officers, CPT Tulowitzki, 1LT Fowler, 1LT Swaggery and 1LT Naquin and and the first sergeants from the companies of the 1st Battalion sans C Company. The heavy weapons company commander and XO are there as well. They are being briefed on the final readiness of their units and any Russian positions they would encounter together with the Ukrainian counterparts, as well as on what the American strategy would be for that operation in this suburban town. Together with them are Captains Duvall and Hoskins from their respective regiments as well as their company XOs, 1LTs Nola and Riley. However they recieved word that the 1st Battalion 3rd NY has also arrived in Tsyrkuny and will deploy their forces on the main road while A and B Companies are already on the move to the west to join them led by Captain Aaron Judge of the former. The battalion command, led by LTC Rojas, has been stationed at the township seat as well to monitor the situation at the frontlines. The battalion had been fighting the Russians in Kharkiv's north east for days now as well.

The plan called for the 1st Battalion 78th BCT to help the 113rd engage its targets in the village of Cherkas'ki Tyshky and its northern neighbouring village of Rus'ki Tyshky with the 3 companies from the 71st Atlanta, 83rd Philadelphia and 3rd NY while the 2nd battalion would operate on the main road of the township with the remainder of the 3 respective battalions while the brigade field and air defense artillery is stationed in the township seat save for the mobile Avenger SAM systens mounted in Humvees. Their mission is to remove any Russians from the two villages in the township from the 200th Brigade in conjunction with their Ukrainian counterparts.

Then the LTC recieved a call from brigade command stationed in the township seat. They are monitoring the battle thru a Bradley Command Vehicle and the comms lines are still active. The command delegation is mounted on two BCVs, one M577 Command Post Carrier on M113 chassis for the battalion sergeant major, two MT-LBs and a M1130. BG DeRosa had just dismounted and had called up MG Scioscia from the FOB in Derhachi regarding the readiness of the combat element. With him is MG Reagins, the representative of the 46th Command who serves as its operational commander in Ukraine, as brigade commander BG Hopkins, with his deputy COL Campbell the brigade XO, are still on the FOB and are moving there to help better supervise the operation at hand. BG DeRosa is the command’s operational XO for Ukrainian operations.

“General DeRo, we understand,” the battalion commander noted, “and we are already coordinating with the 113rd. Intel states there are Russians from 2 infantry battalions of the 200th Motor Rifle Brigade stationed north of our positions, and the Ukrainians are heading there now. We are providing force multipliers for this and are fighting with them.” This was in response to a question by the brigadier general that they understood the directives given the previous day in a command briefing in Kharkiv with the Ukrainian liasons and representatives of the 113rd Brigade regarding the operation they would jointly do that day after having helped liberate Tsyrkuny. Just after their arrival, they linked up with the 72nd Mechanized Brigade of the UGF and helped them perform company-level ops with some large battalion level battles. And since April 12, they have been assigned to fight with the 113rd Territorial Defense Brigade, which they have been tasked for their ongoing operations, given that they are at the Kharkiv area. They have been in Tsyrkuny since yesterday, given that they and the 113rd were together in the battles for the township seat. Now they are fighting to recapture the rest of the township to the north.

“Where is 1st Battalion going?”

“Up north, to fight Russians where we are now at Cherkas'ki Tyshky”, LTC Fenster answered. “The 113rd is already there with some of its companies with the rest of the main road. We’ve been asked to assist them in capturing the rest of the village. Ukrainian intel states that a few companies of the 2nd battalion, 200th Motor Rifle Brigade, are in the village, the rest to the north and on the main road where the 2nd Battalion and the rest of the 113rd are deployed now. We’ve been tasked to eliminate those elements or make the get out of the village, sir. We’re waiting for two companies of the 1st Battalion 3rd NY who are already coming to our positions now to reinforce the battalion. Captain Judge of A Company leads that detachment.”

“I understand,” the brigadier general noted. “And two additional companies from 74th Division here as well?”

He answered yes, adding that their company commanders are there as well. Their position would be the basis of a future FOB for the Territorial Defense Forces in the future, but they are exploring other towns for the raising of new militia battalions under that force. And regarding who gave the order for the 3rd NY to be in Kharkiv, he responded that the order came from the desk of a fellow officer who trained with the 78th, COL Aaron Boone, their regimental commander.

“Be safe gentlemen, and good luck. The people of Kharkiv and all of Ukraine are hoping for a successful operation.”

Just as the talk ended, Captain Judge arrived on his M2 Bradley with the elements of the 2 companies of 1st Battalion 3rd NY. He dismounts, and is joined by representatives of the company command, including his new company XO 1LT Kiner-Falefa appointed last March upon his transfer to the regiment, and the company first sergeant MSGT Rortvedt. 1LT Trevino is also with the 1st Battalion 78th BCT as part of those who were trained there before. Captain Frazier recognized his former fellow soldier, who was there in the Bronx with him as one of his lieutenants in the spring and summer of 2017 before moving to Queens with a transfer to the 62nd NY. The lieutenant Trevino was a part of the 61st Texas regiment which the captain was stationed for part of 2020. The captain is with elements of the company HQ and two platoons, with 1st platoon led by platoon commander 1LT Hicks, his XO 1LT Torres, a Venezuelan native who joined the regiment in the 2000s, and SSGT Rortvedt the platoon sergeant.

“Captain Judge sir!”

“Captain Frazier, sir. Belated congrats on your appointment. I was proud to be leading the men of the 3rd NY with you almost 4 years ago.”

“First Lieutenant Trevino, sir. Glad you’re back in the swing of things but in Eastern Europe,” the first lieutenant said.

The captain answered, “I still remember being in Arlington. But the memories will stay for as long as I live, lieutenant.”

The captains, after having saluted, were welcomed by the commanders of the companies of the 71st Atlanta and 83rd Philadelphia where they are as well as their XOs and first sergeants. Captain Judge was later welcomed by LTC Fenster, the 1st Battalion commanding officer, his XO, MAJ Sogard, the battalion sergeant major SGM Ronai and battalion staff. SFC Stanton of the 5th platoon of Able Company saluted his company commander in New York in the Bronx barracks, having joined the 78th’s 1st Battalion this spring on transfer, because he was part of the brigade’s mobilization platoon assigned twice as part of the 3rd Platoon. The captain was saluted as well by 1LT McCutchen, who was one of his officers in New York in the summer of 2018. Greeting one of his former officers in the battalion, reassigned first to Milwaukee before being recalled back to Cary, he remembered being with that battalion that year and said “Captain Judge, it’s nice to see you again, but this time, welcome to Ukraine.”

The captain from California was briefed by the 1st Battalion, 78th BCT commanding officer regarding the mission of their unit today, hoping that they would help in the operation that they would do together. He stated that “the 1st Battalion command sent me here with two companies of that very battalion to reinforce the 113rd Territorial Defense Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces” and that they will help it fulfill its stated objectives that day. He agreed to join the companies of the 71st Atlanta and 83rd Philadelphia for this.

While he was briefed, the rest of A and B Companies of 1st Battalion 3rd NY took up time to rest in their staging area with elements of the 1st Battalion 78th BCT, save for the 1st platoon of 43 personel who are already chatting with their counterparts in that battalion. They came from many countries, with Americans in the majority and those internationals wearing US Army uniform with their national flag patches. Among them is a Toms River native - CPL Marinaccio, who joined 1st Battalion’s A Company this year after being with the battalion based in Scranton. He recognizes Captain Frazier, who is like him a resident of the town, but no longer in the uniform of the 63rd NY but of the 78th Brigade, with his national flag patch. 5 years ago, he joined the regiment after a collegiate service stinct in Delaware.

“Captain Frazier!”

Running towards the man and his company XO CPT Tulowitzki he saluted and introduced himself. “Corporal Ron Marinaccio, sir. Just like you, from Toms River in New Jersey. Fought with my regiment in Bucha and later on got moved to Kharkiv.”

“Glad you came here to fight for the Ukraine. And you were among the first Americans. For me and the 78th, we were in Irpin for our first combat missions.”

“A great pleasure, Captain Frazier. Fighting in the spirit of heroes of the past, I feel ready to carry on that fighting traditions of the peoples of our home state.”

The captain enjoyed also talking with a long time 1LT, Kyle Higashioka. A graduate of UC Berkeley he too is from California like Captain Judge - but is a Japanese American. However he began as an NCO (joining the regiment, then under BG Torre, in 2007 as a Corporal) and in 2016 was commissioned thanks to his studies in the OCS, joining the 1st Battalion as a 2LT in 2017. His usual battle companion, 1LT Gerrit Cole who was also trained in Cary, is with the 1st Battalion of the 78th instead as part of B Company. However, he began with the regiment in Pittsburgh with 1LT McCutchen and another part of the 3rd NY but now recalled to the 78th Brigade, SSGT Taillion, despite having Canadian heritage in one of his parents. They talked on the experience of serving in the same regiment as now BG Girardi, now reassigned as PAO chief of the 71st Chicago. He was their former commanding officer. The lieutenant and SSGT Taillon both recognized the captain who they met during his days with the 169th Cincinnati Infantry as a platoon and later company commander.

As the conversation continued, COL Bianco arrived in a Humvee to help direct the operation. “Ten-hut” was heard as the colonel disembarked from the vehicle to meet the men and to continue monitoring the situation on the ground. The 6th platoon’s commander, 1LT Payton, ran to the colonel together with his staff and SSGT Montgomery, together with LTC Fenster, LTCOL Andruw Jones whose son Drew is with the battalion, and the battalion staff present as well as SGM Ronai. All saluted the colonel, as well as the company commanders plus those of the 3 regiments who have been there that day to help that battalion. Then 1LT Payton recognized the presence of his platoon before their training officer.

“First Lieutenant Payton, sir. Elements of the 6th Platoon, Able Company of 1st Battalion, 78th IBCT, all present and accounted for. A pleasure for you to be here today.”

“Lieutenant Payton”, replied Colonel Bianco,“The road had been tough, but you and your boys have indeed made me proud. All that hard training has paid off, and I’m glad all of you are still here fighting for Ukraine and our freedom. Good luck today, gentlemen.”

“My pleasure, colonel”, the platoon commander replied.

1LT Bradfield the platoon XO and 2LT Wilson the platoon adjutant also saluted the colonel, telling him that they too are ready to fulfill their duty, having applied their training lessons and regimen in the first weeks since they and the rest of the 1st Battalion arrived in the country.

The colonel had arrived to help direct the operational work the 1st Battalion had been assigned for today, and having been briefed by LTC Fenster, MAJ Sogard and parts of battalion staff as well as its lead Ukrainian liason on reports that elements of the 1st Battalion, 1st Motor Rifle (Infantry) Regiment, Donbass People’s Militia, and 2 battalions of the 200th Motor Rifle Brigade of the Northern Fleet Coastal Forces are stationed north of their area, and the 1st and 2nd Battalions have been informed by the commandant of the 113rd TDF Brigade covering Kharkiv Oblast to assist in their moving north, in gratitude for their assistance in the capture of Tsyrkuny a few days ago. The Ukrainian liason stated in the intel and situationer reports that the 200th’s presence is only reinforced by a few field artillery batteries and MBTs under brigade HQ from the artillery regiment and the tank battalion, respectively, the tanks being the T-80BVMs and the artillery made up of 2S7 Msta-S self-propelled howitzers from the brigade’s two artillery battalions. Their mission is to help the 113rd in its operation to remove Russians from the twin villages north of Tsyrkuny so that the whole of that township is cleared of Russians and their allies.

Upon recieving the reports, COL Bianco told everyone, “It’s gonna be a long day ahead for us here. But as long as we do our best, we will drive the Russians away from the northern edges of Kharkiv, together. Mark my words, boys, this will be one of the biggest operations of this war, and General DeRosa is expecting all of us to play our part to help finish this operation. Don’t spare any expense. We have a goal to do, to help Ukraine defeat Russia at all costs no matter what.”

LTC Fenster replied that the battalion, together with the attached elements from other units of the brigade and the 169th Corps, is ready to fulfill their tasks for today, and will follow the right strategies needed to win the day. Then, he resumed the briefing conference informing the colonel that given the intel that in Cherkas'ki Tyshky elements of the Russian 200th Infantry Brigade and the 1st DPR Motor Rifles are stationed with more up north, given the consultations among the commanders and XOs of his subordinated units in the battalion he has agreed to implement the battle plan for the day. The colonel concurred and informed his superior officers via radio of their readiness.