The Russian Special Forces operators must survive one of the world’s most difficult competitions to earn the right to wear the crimson beret (Krapoviy Beret), the symbol of their status.
The competition for the crimson beret usually consists of three steps: The first is intended to demonstrate physical fitness: a rugged five-mile cross-country race including a final 100-yard sprint. Most of the race course involves overcoming water obstacles – including chest-high swamps of rotting, stagnant water – or forced crossing of a “contaminated” area wearing a gas mask. The cross-country course is full of special obstacles such as minefields, smoke-filled areas and fires. Periodically, a soldier has to crawl under or run through live small-arms fire. Furthermore, a special “psychological manipulation” group is deployed throughout the course. These “psychos” run alongside the soldiers and shout at them, splash them with mud and water and throw smoke-puff charges under their feet. After completing this part of the course, the soldier has to run a sprint: 100 yards, four times. Then come chin-ups and acrobatics. The second stage begins immediately after the first. Each contestant must show superb skills in firing the RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher, the AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher, PK or PKT machine guns, the AK74M automatic, Makarov or Stechkin pistols and the SVD sniper rifle. The third stage lasts only 12 minutes, but the soldiers often call it “12 minutes of hell.” The 12 minutes are divided into four three-minute periods. Each of the four periods is a round of hand-to-hand combat with a new opponent who already wears the crimson beret. Those who pass all the stages are awarded the crimson beret.
My friend, Dmitry Moroz, captured some very cool pictures from that competition…
– Rob Ski
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