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A member of an elite Russian airborne group demonstrates his skills at the Russian brigade's celebration on the 68th birthday of the  airborne force at their camp in Ugljevik, Bosnia arid Herzegovina.

A member of an elite Russian airborne group demonstrates his skills at the Russian brigade's celebration on the 68th birthday of the airborne force at their camp in Ugljevik, Bosnia arid Herzegovina. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

A member of an elite Russian airborne group demonstrates his skills at the Russian brigade's celebration on the 68th birthday of the  airborne force at their camp in Ugljevik, Bosnia arid Herzegovina.

A member of an elite Russian airborne group demonstrates his skills at the Russian brigade's celebration on the 68th birthday of the airborne force at their camp in Ugljevik, Bosnia arid Herzegovina. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

A parachutist trailing the flag of the Russian Airborne forces comes in for a landing at the Russian base in Ugljvik.

A parachutist trailing the flag of the Russian Airborne forces comes in for a landing at the Russian base in Ugljvik. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

With members of his team cheering him on in the background, a hooded Russian airborne soldier completes a task in a team competition held in conjunction with the birthday celebrations of the Russian Airborne forces.

With members of his team cheering him on in the background, a hooded Russian airborne soldier completes a task in a team competition held in conjunction with the birthday celebrations of the Russian Airborne forces. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

A Russian airborne soldier uses a sledge hammer to smash a stack of bricks resting on a comrade's stomach during the Russian brigade's celebration on the 68th birthday of the airborne force at their camp in Ugljevik, Bosnia arid Herzegovina, in 1998.

A Russian airborne soldier uses a sledge hammer to smash a stack of bricks resting on a comrade's stomach during the Russian brigade's celebration on the 68th birthday of the airborne force at their camp in Ugljevik, Bosnia arid Herzegovina, in 1998. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

An elite Russian airborne unit gives a martial arts-like demonstration during a ceremony celebrating the 68th anniversary of the Russian airborne forces at their camp in Ugljevik.

An elite Russian airborne unit gives a martial arts-like demonstration during a ceremony celebrating the 68th anniversary of the Russian airborne forces at their camp in Ugljevik. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

UGLJEVIK, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Russian paratroops strutted their stuff and showcased their military equipment Sunday as they celebrated the 68th anniversary of the formation of their airborne force.

The airborne troops, constituting SFOR's Russian Brigade headquartered at Ugljevik in northeastern Bosnia, are considered to be among the most elite and best equipped of Russian forces.

Several dozen U.S, soldiers, including some paratroops, attended the celebration at which Maj. Gen. Larry R. Ellis, commander of Task Force Eagle, was one of the featured speakers. Ellis told the gathering of several hundred soldiers and Bosnian guests that the Russian army was the first in the world to establish an airborne force on Aug. 2, 1930, and thanked the Russian forces for their efforts in keeping the peace in Bosnia.

Paratroops, accompanied by a brass band, marched in close order while belting put patriotic songs. They held contests between teams to see which were fastest in accomplishing tasks blindfolded, including tearing down and reassembling rifles, inserting cartridges in ammo belts, and the donning of nuclear, biological and chemical protection gear.

The paratroops performed precision airborne maneuvers after dropping from a helicopter and demonstrated the capabilities of a wide range of armored vehicles.

The show really got cooking when two bare-chested, bandanna-wearing "Rambos" charged onto the parade ground shooting off machine guns with one arm and semiautomatic rifles with the other. Fortunately, they aimed high and shot blanks or there may have been few survivors to sec the rest of the show, featuring martial-arts experts wailing away in hand-to-hand combat with knives and fixed bayonets, and demolishing stacks of flaming bricks with hands and foreheads.


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