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Paratrooper 6b27 Helmet

331st Guards Airborne Regiment, 98th Guards Airborne Division

     This Airborne helmet was captured by Ukrainian forces during the Kherson counteroffensive from 1-4 September, 2022. Once belonging to a member of the 331st Guards Airborne Regiment, 98th Guards Airborne Division, the regiment’s positions along the Vysokopillia-Davydiv Brid line were quickly overrun leading to the capture of many pieces of Russian equipment, including this helmet.
     The 331st Guards Airborne Regiment has a long and decorated history within the Russian military. Based out of Kostroma, the regiment was considered one of the more elite units of the army, consistently performing well in intra-military competitions while receiving the honor of appearing in countless military parades in Moscow and across Russia. In 2014 the regiment saw extensive combat in Chechnya and Donetsk, its last combat appearance prior to the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, giving actual fighting experience to at least some of its members.

     In January of 2022, the regiment was one of the last units to join the gathering of Russian forces along the Belorussian border near Kiev, only arriving a few weeks before the invasion was slated to begin. On 24 February the regiment joined its parent organization, the 98th Airborne Division, and many other Russian airborne units to make a massive drive towards the Ukrainian capital, kicking off a full-scale invasion by attempting to capture key points of Ukrainian infrastructure and settlements leading to Kiev. One of the 331st’s primary objectives became the Hostomel Airport and Bucha, key points to maintaining Russian logistical capability to support advancing ground forces. Before long, however, the area turned into a back-and-forth onslaught between Russian airborne forces and the Ukrainian defenders. The 331st sustained heavy casualties in the first few weeks of combat as Ukrainian ambushes and street-fighting led to dozens killed, countless more wounded, and even the death of their regimental commanding officer. By April, as the drive on Kiev faded, the regiment was sent back to Belarus to recuperate. 

     Over the next several months the regiment, as a more well-trained and experienced force, made scattered appearances in places like Izyum, Donetsk, and Popasnaya as the unit moved with the 98th Division to fill gaps in the Russian lines and support various defensive operations across the Donbas. Despite their heavy casualties in the early fighting, the regiment was consistently put in some of the thickest combat positions, causing even more significant losses as the war dragged on. By the end of August, the unit had sustained the greatest losses of all Russian airborne forces, losing over 80 officers and hundreds more enlisted men. Although the Russian government has not released full casualty information to the public, western outlets report the 331st as suffering somewhere between 50-85% casualties of men and equipment. The latter part of the summer going into August found the regiment suffering from an extreme lack of men, leading the army to begin supplementing the unit with lesser-trained conscripts or reservists, notably much less prepared, equipped, or experienced than the once-elite professional soldiers that filled its ranks at the beginning of the war. Throughout the period, videos have also surfaced online from members of the regiment detailing the shocking losses they had taken during their various campaigns. For all intents and purposes, by early fall the 331st was a shell of its former self barely held together by an increasing number of replacement men, vehicles, and gear.

​     By the end of August, the regiment had taken up positions in a line stretching from Vysokopillia, Ol’hyne, and Davydiv Brid in the northern sector of Kherson Oblast. Vysokopillia, for most of the war, had acted as the de facto occupation headquarters for Kherson and as a critical part of the line, was defended by several of the “elite” VDV airborne units, including the 331st. On 29 August the Ukrainian military, long at a stalemate with their Russian opponents in the region, initiated a series of strategic counter-offensives in Kherson to push back segments of the Russian line. One of the main thrusts of this advance came towards Vysokopillia. Thus, once again, the 331st found itself in the thick of extremely heavy combat with an overwhelming amount of Ukrainian forces driving against their positions. The fighting quickly broke through the first Russian lines but for the next five days raged across the villages and towns pressing against the 331st. The regiment, now full of many less experienced and trained soldiers, could not perform as it had in its earlier campaigns, and within only a few days, the defenses failed. By 2 September several significant 331st headquarters positions had been taken and the regiment itself was beginning to teeter. Falling back so as to save themselves from complete collapse and destruction, the 331st abandoned many of its fighting positions leaving behind pieces of equipment, ammunition, and vehicles in hopes that they would not perish. By 4 September Vysokopillia was declared officially liberated by Ukrainian President Zelensky and within the next week, the Russian lines had solidified far from their former positions. While the offensive had brought great success to the Ukrainian attackers, the 331st once again found itself licking extremely heavy wounds as it maintained its reputation as the bloodiest airborne force of the entire Russian military.

     This particular helmet was found in one of the 331st Airborne Regiment positions taken during that August-September counteroffensive along the Vysokopillia-Davydiv Brid line. The original capturer took a dozen helmets, unit flags, captured paperwork, uniforms, insignia, and many other pieces of equipment marked and identified to men of the 331st that were left behind in their rush to retreat. This helmet, a 6b28, is a special model produced roughly up to 2014 specifically for VDV use. Although most of the 331st went into combat with the more modern 6b47 helmets at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, photographs and records show many older pieces of equipment being issued as supplies run out and new men are thrown into the line. It is likely that one of these factors led to this helmet being reissued to a frontline airborne combat unit. The helmet has a horrible reek of human sweat and is extremely salty, testifying heavy use in Ukraine before its capture. Beyond its VDV-style St. George identifier ribbon, the helmet features graffiti of “123” above the callsign “Fighter,” likely that of the soldier who once wore the helmet. On the protective band of the goggles is an additional phrase, “Kolos,” which may be another nickname (meaning ear) or, more likely, could refer to the soldier’s hometown. On the shell of the helmet is written PEMP, an abbreviation for the a Repair Company. This marking may be from prior use before the war, however. In either case, repair companies within airborne regiments of the VDV are specially tasked engineers designed to maintain, protect, repair, and recover the vehicles utilized by the regiment. In Ukraine these companies have seen heavy use and action, meaning this soldier likely had an extremely busy war trying to keep the 331st vehicles mobile and combat-ready. Inside the helmet is some very faint writing on the brim, potentially a soldier’s unit or personal ID number, which is unable to be fully read at this time. Additionally, the initials “K K A” are carved into the top of the shell above the webbing.

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