Interview: Rich Norman

Pics: TKB

Truppa Krasnyj Banneror Труппа Красный Баннер – are a RUSFOR milsim team from Norway.

Norway? Again?!

One of the reasons I follow some of the more prominent Norwegian teams is because of their culture of discipline, team work – prior to and during events – and organisation.

In fairness, I didn’t know anything about Truppa Krasnyj Banner (TKB) until I asked STAS’ Joe Jensen:

“Joe – who’s hot right now in Norway?”

I knew even less about RUSFOR milsim, or indeed anything to do with modernised Russian armed forces – aside from articles like this in the British press.

However, I got talking to “Evgeny” (all members of TKB assume Russian names) and was very soon inducted into the world of #EMRBETTERTHANMULTICAM – TKB’s tongue in cheek hashtag, with meme starring Evgeny and Ola from Norway’s CAG titans, HHK.

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In fact, there’s a lot of humour in TKB’s social media – and indeed talking to the guys individually – but they are also intensely serious about what they do; as I realised when I was granted access to the team’s google drive.

This is an extract from the first thing I saw:

TKB list

X – need; H – have; P – posted (I’m told Russian mail is really slow) and they also differentiate between real kit (RS) and replica. Anything highlighted in red is a must have item, and so on.

How organised is that?

But that’s not all. They’ve even produced a highly detailed kit document for the blog:

Morskaya Pekhota, Russian Naval Infantry 2016+

It’s a great read and it helped inform my understanding of an unknown quantity. I spoke to Evgeny and Kirill to find out more.

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Guys – welcome to The Reptile House! Tell me how TKB was formed.

Kirill: I have been doing Russian stuff since I first started airsoft, back in 2012, slowly edging my way towards the milsim scene.

First, I started with half-arsed MVD kits, before I joined the only Norwegian team doing Russian kit and went FSB. I was honestly more of a collector than an airsofter at one point, just hoarding kit and rarely using it.

Around this time I met Evgeny at a local Sunday skirmish, and we sort of hit it off.

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Evgeny: I was using Norwegian camo at the time. My plan was to work my way towards a generic Norwegian army kit.

Kirill: Yeah, that I did not like 😉

Evgeny: We got to talking on Facebook, where I was slowly but steadily tempted into the world of Russofting. Kirill was getting tired of the high speed SF stuff, so a lot of the conversation was about green bean grunt kit. And EMR.

After a failed attempt by another guy to get a Crimean Crisis team going, we colluded; and got the ball rolling. We wanted something more modern than the Crimean thing.

Kirill: Team members Igor and Oleg joined up pretty much from the get-go, and we worked out a minimum requirement concerning gear.

Oleg

Evgeny: Deciding the name took some time. And work! We use Discord a lot for internal communications, and probably talked names for three days.

The main focus was to get something that was immediately identifiable as Russian, so the name alone would identify us as a team doing Russian kit. And, it had to be cool.

We became “Truppa” as it roughly translates to troupe or platoon. This meant we could have a lot of members, and gave us the potential to grow. Russian kit, like most other in airsoft, looks a lot better with a number of people doing the same thing.

We decided to use “Krasnyj Banner” as it’s inherently Russian, and “The Order of the Red Banner” was the highest order in the Soviet Union, so it has something heroic about it. Combine the two, and you have Platoon of the Order of the Red Banner: “Truppa Krasnyj Banner”

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We shamelessly found the logo on the internet and put a red banner behind the anchor. It was supposed to be something temporary, but it looked great so we kept it.

Now we just need to make a subdued version to use on the uniforms, which has been a work-in-progress for at least 6 months.

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Kirill: Something about the name, and probably the early team members, must have worked. After a couple of national games with players from all over Norway, we grew.

The bulk of us are based locally – around Stavanger, on the south west coast – but we have members spread around most of Southern Norway. Thankfully it’s easy to stay in touch now, with the wonders of the internet.

Evgeny: There are 11 of us now, where 9 are (mostly) fully kitted out.

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Why have you gone the Russian Naval Infantry route, rather than Russian SF?

Kirill: Most of the popular Russian SF, like units from the FSB and MVD, are really internal security forces. It really does not work in a proper milsim setting.

Evgeny: Yeah, we wanted to go MoD. And we wanted to be the guys using the most current equipment. That narrowed it down to either VDV (paratroopers) or Morpeh (Marines). Also, to be honest, it’s easier to get our hands on a boat, than a plane.

I’m not saying it’s easy to get our hands on a kit legit boat, but still easier than a kit legit plane.

Kirill: And Marines have always been fascinating. Royal Marine Commandos; US Marines; Morpeh. They have a charm for us that the regular army lacks.

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What’s with the Russian name each team member assumes?

Evgeny: Yeah, that pretty much started as a joke to be honest. And once again, it seemed to work. The call signs western SF and all airsofters use, don’t really translate to what we do. And of course it’s great for immersion – both for us, and for the guys shooting at us.

If you hear “Kirill! Vrag sleva!” it feels more like you’re actually up against the Russians.

“Kjell, enemy on the left…” is a lot less immersive.

Kirill: It’s also a great way of identifying team members on the pictures we try to spam all over social media.

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Sharing a border with a powerful and potentially hostile aggressor may put some people off a modern RUSFOR impression. What’s the attraction?

Evgeny: To be honest, most Norwegians are more concerned about Trump than Putin!

Kirill: For me it started with a love for the AK line of rifles. In my eyes it has always looked a lot better than its western counterparts.

Evgeny: And it’s great playing the bad guy. The best way to get invited to a Norwegian milsim, is Russian kit. Everyone wants to shoot at you.

The politics we don’t concern ourselves with. We are, in essence, playing dress up. The political leadership of the guys we dress up as does not influence us.

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What’s EMR?

Kirill: In short, EMR is better than Multicam.

It’s a hashtag, so it has to be true.

Evgeny: In less short, EMR is the currently issued camouflage pattern used by the Russian Armed forces, and curiously, Belize Ground Forces.

It stands for Edinaya maskirovochnaya rascvetka  roughly translating to Unified Camouflage Coloration.

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In this case, Unified means that it’s common to all of the armed forces. It began full scale adoption around 2011, but, as with most things Russian, things take time, and you can still see units with older VSR and Flora patterns.

Kirill: It’s a great pattern for Scandinavian woodland. With the standard leto, or summer colour that is on all the gear, you can disappear in the Norwegian woods.

Combined with the two variants on the 6sh122 suit, we have something for every terrain we encounter.

The greyish version even sort of works in the snow.

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As the originators of the EMR vs. Multicam meme and hashtag, how did they come about?

Evgeny: When I was making the FB page, I just wanted to see if it would let me use the url:

fb.com/EMRBETTERTHANMULTICAM/

And it did. The initial plan was just to see if our friends in teams like HHK and the rest of Task Force Exorbitance would notice. And again things escalated. We started using the hashtag on all our posts on both Facebook and Instagram, and it eventually started to spread.

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Kirill: The meme was made by Igor, our meme artist, again as a friendly stab at HHK. The meme did spread a lot, and rumour has it that it’s now making its way around the Russian social media platform VK.

If you think we regret not watermarking it, you would be correct.

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How does TKB ensure consistency in values and attitudes within the team?

Kirill: We don’t have a strict top down leadership structure. The most active members just talk all the time, and luckily we tend to agree. We mostly have the same values, and we behave most of the time.

If you manage to avoid being a dick most of the time, that’s good enough.

Evgeny: Yeah, instead of a supreme leader, the active members sort of work like a proper Soviet Politburo and decide what to do. And it’s real easy to be a part of it for anyone in the team. A team member just has to be active, and talk to the rest.

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Same question, but about loadouts – how are standards defined which ensure quality and consistency?

Evgeny: That’s the best part about doing Morpeh, or any other kind of non-SF kit. You avoid that whole “SF use what they want” crap.

What we did, was make a short list with the minimum requirements, and then you can build from that.

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Kirill: The basis of all our kits are the fifth layer of the VKBO layering system, the 6b45 plate carrier, 6b47 helmet and 6sh117 LBV. And the AK-74M. From that, you can build your kit to your own preference.

With the low prices on real Russian gear, we really don’t worry much about replicas. Helmets are really the only thing worth replicating, and the price difference is not all that much.

Last time I checked, there was a difference of only £40GBP or so between a real, and a replica helmet.

And with the real one, you get all the accessories. So any saving you have buying the lid disappear as soon as you start getting balaclavas and helmet covers added in.

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Evgeny: Reference pictures play an important role as well. We have a large, ever growing, gallery on hand. And we spend a lot of time looking for more pictures.

The Russian MoD inadvertantly helps us with this, as they post up quite a number of pictures from exercises and other events.

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Does TKB standardise on an airsoft AK-74M platform?

Evgeny: No. We standardise on an airsoft AK-74M magazine really. Most of us use the LCT, but there are some E&L and CYMA in the mix as well.

Kirill: We encourage steel rifles, and LCT is currently the best one. I’ve had most, and at the moment use E&L, but I must admit, I would trade it for an LCT at any time.

Evgeny: Oh, and we only use PKM’s made by A&K. They are the only ones making them of course, so we have to be really strict about that. This will change once LCT releases their PKP. Half the guys are saving up for that one.

Knowing LCT, it won’t be cheap.

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Tell me about any specialisms within the team.

Kirill: Basic stuff really. Everyone is a rifleman first. We currently have one medic, and lots of PKM’s for support. We are still quite a fresh team, and work things out as we go along.

I have no doubt we will find the need for more specialists in the future, and then we will work it out. The most important part at the moment is doing the basics right.

Evgeny: With the way our kit is built, it’s real easy to do recon if recon is needed. We just remove the 6b45 plate carrier, and then we are set up just like most recce in the Russian armed forces.

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The question many budding RUSFOR impressionists will be asking is, “How do we get into TKB?”

Evgeny: We have no plans on going international, so being Norwegian gets you a long way.

We are never further than a Facebook message away! The easy way to get into the team is knowing the guys and wanting to do what we do. No trick to it really.

Kirill: That said, we are always willing to help a fellow Russofter. If you’re keen on doing Morpeh, you can message us wherever you are in the world. Talking kit is at least half the fun of this hobby.

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Lastly, what are the team’s future plans?

Kirill: Short term plans are attending local games here in Norway. Both milsim and more casual events. Some of the boys are going across the border for this summer’s Berget as well.

Local events are where we recruit new members, and we are keen for more. Beans look better in large numbers.

Evgeny: More long term, we dream of having a UAZ-469. The Russian jeep, you might want to call it. Perhaps there will be a Kickstarter? We don’t know yet, but sooner or later we will have a UAZ!

Kirill: And a flag! A huge red flag with the anchor on it. It has to be done.

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