When I was 18 years old, I left my job, bought a one-way ticket to Kyiv, and subsequently enlisted in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. While I am technically the first American in history to accomplish this (by order of paperwork), I underwent the process with two other American prior-service veterans and a gaggle of Georgian(the nation, not the US state) volunteers. I am also the youngest foreigner from any western country to participate in this conflict, as far as I'm aware, by a decent margin.

I saw combat in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and worked alongside a variety of Ukrainian servicemen and women. My occupation was infantry, and I served predominately in a mechanized unit.

I had the opportunity to visit multiple cities across the country, and interact with all sorts of different people, from all sides of the political spectrum. I also taught English in Kyiv for a brief period after my military contract ended.

Ask me anything about Ukraine, it's culture, conflict, cuisine, climate, people, topography, or it's workings! I am in 'quarantine' (read: day-drinking) because of COVID-19 and will be around until late this evening.

(I understand this conflict in particular is a sensitive topic for some, so I encourage everybody to maintain a certain amount of levity; I will answer all questions to the best of my abilities.)

proof: https://imgur.com/Dezsf2Z

proof 2 electric boogaloo: https://imgur.com/39h3y8i

Slava Ukraini!

edit 1822EST: Thank everybody so much for all the wonderful questions. I appreciate you guys! I'll be standing by for another few hours.

edit 2, 2000EST: I have drank myself into a state of delirium! I will now go pass out in my bathtub, and so ends our Q/A session for the time being. If anyone has any more questions, feel free to leave them, and I will answer them when I arise. Thank you again everyone, merry crisis and don't forget to hand your washs.

final edit 0305EST: I believe I have answered everyone's questions! If I missed anything, just DM me. Thanks to everybody for participating.

Comments: 270 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

Reich2choose98 karma

Did you speak Ukrainian or Russian before you enlisted?

vdamku170 karma

Yes! I taught my self Russian in highschool. For no particular reason, I was interested in slavic culture and the history of the region. I had learned German by my 10th grade year and so the next step to me was a synthetic, mostly non-latin derived alphabet language of prominence, ergo, Russian. I also wanted to impress girls so they would like me.

Funny enough, I had no inclinations of the possibility that I would end up in Ukraine when I began learning. It came in handy. Immersion is a great way to learn on the fly. Especially when people are trying to kill you and you have a small margin of error for communication.

Glockkko43 karma

How did you learn Russian and German in high school and to what proficiency?

vdamku63 karma

Duolingo, books, and lots of spare time.

German conversationally, more or less the same in Russian minus the ability to order things at a restaurant or share nuanced opinions. I also lacked the finer points of swearing in Russian until much later.

Now, sadly, I'm functionally an idiot in both languages. Use it or lose it when it comes to that stuff.

HydrolicKrane4 karma

Not many even Americans know the fact that the Father of the US Navy Admiral John Paul Jones fought his last naval battles on the territory of present-day Ukraine and made friends with the Zaporozhian Cossacks. By some sources, he was even inducted into their ranks. "Ukraine & the United States" book has the chapter on it and many other cool facts just in case.

vdamku1 karma

You're the first person I've met that knows anything about him! Very cool.

flipdoc1 karma

I was interested in slavic culture and the history of the region.

What kind of girls (or guys) do you find attractive?

vdamku2 karma

I like girls that look like they'd ruin my life.

vdamku50 karma

Also, I learned a fair bit of Ukrainian while I was in Ukraine. For the record.

nahnprophet72 karma

Why did you decide to do it? Did you descend from Ukranian immigrants, or just found the cause compelling?

vdamku143 karma

I am partially of Ukrainian descent, which was a small part of the motivation. I was primarily motivated by the struggle of the Ukrainian people, who desire to be free from the Kremlin's influence, and often as well as the EU. I was in 9th grade when Crimea was annexed, and since then I had closely followed the situation as it developed in Ukraine proper. I learned about the country's history from Kyiv Rus to the SSR days, and watched as internal strife began to surface 2013-2014.

I try to stand against vapid imperialism where I see it, and this time I was fortunate enough to be presented the opportunity to lend a hand and play a small part in standing up for not just myself as developing young adult, but another country as well. I felt like I was likely going to die if my life kept it's trajectory the year before I went, and so I committed to try and at least die doing something important. I witnessed an free and independent country in Europe get straight invaded and NATO do nothing. So I certainly felt obligated.

probably_tryna_sleep58 karma

I witnessed an free and independent country in Europe get straight invaded and NATO do nothing.

Everytime this comes up in discussion, I tell people, say the words "Budapest memorandum"... Ukraine and 3 other nations signed it, legally and morally obligating those countries defend the sovereignty of Ukraine, and in the end, 1 of the signatory nations attacked the sovereignty of Ukraine, and the other 2 countries did Jack fuckin shit. I'm a (to some I'm sure) painfully patriotic American, but I was so disappointed in my government when this happened, and the media was NOWHERE to inform the masses... I know we haven't seen the end of what's going on in the former Soviet union, I just hope we can recognize a problem before it arrives on out doorstep here at home...

vdamku25 karma

EXACTLY.

payitforwards52 karma

what's your favourite day drinking drink? asking for a friend

vdamku105 karma

Non-pandemic, currently employed day drinking drink: Lagunitas IPA or Miller.

COVID-19 day drinking drink: Slane Irish Whisky neat, Gin/Tonic

Ukraine day drinking drink: Vodka, bathtub moonshine

PierreDelecto_202048 karma

Why did you leave?

vdamku204 karma

TL;DR: spooks and sadness

After a serious of unfortunate events came to pass, I came to the conclusion that it was in my best interest to depart in late 2016. The week of my 19th birthday, I lost several friends that were close to me within the span of 24 hours. I got incredible ill, nearly died from salmonella/dehydration. I had a bounty on my head for a significant sum, issued by the LPR/DPR fighters. FSB had black-bagged another foreigner who we knew, and credible intelligence from a Ukrainian commander suggested that I was not far down on the shit-list.

Other than that, I came to realize that no matter how many rounds spent, how many dozens lives saved/taken, the outcome remains unchanged and greater forces at play benefit from the death of Ukrainian and Russian sons and daughters. There's a significant amount of rare-earth minerals and natural gas in the Donbass region, coincidentally.

PierreDelecto_202050 karma

FSB had black-bagged another foreigner

I'm assuming you relayed the information to their embassy?

vdamku79 karma

I didn't personally, but the information was relayed by those more in-the-know and with the means to do so. From my understanding their government was well aware of their presence in Ukraine, and learned about the incident shortly after it happened.

Zoetekauw43 karma

Why did you have a bounty on your head?

Also, jfc

vdamku119 karma

Americans are worth a lot of money in eastern europe. Especially ones that antagonize Ivan.

TinKicker21 karma

How do you know this? (Bounty, by whom. Intel. Etc)

vdamku78 karma

For the DPR fighters, there was a website(.onion) that had name/photo/KOC $. An analyst from a sister unit noticed the posting and sent it to our staff, which got radio'd to us at the front.

I learned that FSB had it out for my booty similarly from my unit's chain of command.

flipdoc11 karma

Are you planning to change yoru name/identity now?

vdamku35 karma

Nope. Don't give a fuck. Let 'em come.

New-Vlad17 karma

Do you think they will extract this gas eventually?

vdamku29 karma

Eventually, or just let Ukraine do it and then use economic warfare to obtain it eventually anyhow.

ReagansGun46 karma

Slava Ukraini.

Such an iteresting story, mate. I’m also a veteran of this war, but I’m Ukrainian. Was a volunteer in recon battalion in 2014-2015. Last time was on the battlefield in the 2018. As I know, first American participated in this war as volunteers in “Donbas” battalion. But, of course, it was illegally.

In which unit did you serve? Where your unit was located? Do you know Ukrainian language?

Btw, nice to see here another veteran :)

vdamku48 karma

I was in 25th Mechanized Infantry Battalion 'Kyivska Rus', 54th Mechanized Brigade. We spent time near Popasnaya, Luhanska, and a few other places I couldn't point out on a map because nobody told me.

I know only a little Ukrainian language unfortunately! I think it's beautiful, but I find it far more difficult than Russian inherently. It's very similar, but there is enough differences to make it challenging if you already know Russian.

vdamku34 karma

Oh, and thank you for your service, friend. It's always nice to interact with another UA vet))

JON-NEESE-35 karma

What’s combat like on a static battlefield like Ukraine?

vdamku96 karma

It's pretty wild, there's not another theater in the globe today like it. Gave me a sense of what WW1 soldiers endured. I literally got trench foot at one point and lost a significant portion of flesh from my right foot due to necrosis. It was brutal.

It's also crazy because you can look through a scope and see the OPFOR pissing, drinking, eating, and bullshitting with outstanding clarity and without a care in the world. Often times with the scheduled frequency of firefights, the whole shebang felt like a 9-5 and it reflected in the behavior of both Ukrainian and Russian/Russian-backed soldiers.

There's so many times where we were engaged with an enemy element that was well outside of our weapon's effective range, and it was almost comical. There's a lot of times where you wish you could maneuver and ventillate all the motherfuckers across from you but it's entirely impractical due to AP mines. Hundreds of them. Everywhere. It's quite ridiculous. Legit no-mans land in-between fighting positions.

It's less burdensome if you have disposable T-series armor and MiGs to lay waste to Ukrainian positions, but as I've mentioned there's rarely any hard push for land grabbing anymore so it's just a whole lot of spent rounds for maybe 6 casualties in an entire day.

JON-NEESE-20 karma

Wow, that’s sounds crazy than I thought. What’s your opinion of Russian soldiers and their proxies?

vdamku64 karma

Russian soldiers can shoot better. Small unit tactics compared to NATO forces leaves a lot to be desired. They have great power in numbers, however, and statistically speaking produce more people per-capita willing to die for their country than almost anyone else. Slav spirit.

Separatists initially were essentially farmers with AKs, but once Russian regular/special forces trained them, they've gotten a bit better at close engagements, utilization of indirect fire, and ambushes.

lemmingsagain31 karma

Did you have the opportunity to interact with ethnically Russian Ukrainians and what seemed to be their take on the Russian takeover of parts of Ukraine?

vdamku81 karma

I did! I certainly received much more insightful and well-thought out arguments/comments from ethnic Russians in Ukraine, than I have from diaspora here in the US.

I love Russians, I admire the culture, I respect the peoples, even though I happen to disagree with the Kremlin. I'd say the older ethnic Russians are much more sympathetic to the separatist cause and see the conflict as oppressed Russians resisting a tyrannically oppressive Ukrainian government and it's policies. The younger generation more often than not sees it for what it is, a political game.

Generally speaking, Russians think Russia can do no wrong and Ukrainians more often (depending on age and geography) have more nuanced views about it.

I'm very thankful for all the interactions. Following my appearance on a Ukraine Today newsclip, a bunch of very hardline separatists added me on Facebook and told me I was Nazi for even thinking about standing against the glorious Luhansk/Donetsk People's Republic glorious revolution!

I hope this answer is satisfactory.

biglebowshi30 karma

How have the scenes and actions done over there affect you afterwards? Maybe permanently?

vdamku111 karma

It has definitely affected me. Let me start by saying a lot of people have had it a lot worse than me. I am not a worse case scenario and I like to think of myself as a rational and leveled person, but-

I do have lasting depression and other minor mental health issues as a result of my experiences. What's funny, is that the worst issues don't come from the violence and conflict per se, even though loss is awful. Most of my lasting negative effects stem from the transition from that environment to being a lost 19 year old kid with no benefits, no direction, no friends, no money, no home, and no sanity back in the states.

I see things in a different way. Other veterans understand. There's a certain element to living life and death every day, a simplicity, of do or don't that most people will never experience. Most people my age are concerned and anxious about frivolous material pursuits or social circles. I had to grow up very fast and I learned a lot of skills and developed a certain defensive mindset that's hard to turn off. Ive gotten better over the years though.

I still have trouble making friends, because I find it hard to relate to a lot of people. I carry a deep sadness in me that makes it hard to fit in to most social circles.

The other two Americans I mentioned; One of them is awaiting trial for a double homicide and the other is off the grid. I don't have contact with any of the Ukrainians I served on the ground with, and that makes me sad. I keep trying to move on from the past but I find it difficult. Everything else I face in life, one way or another, measures up to this thing I did years ago that seems like it'll always cast a shadow one way or another.

For better or worse, the war is apart of me. The struggle I faced after is apart of me. I do what I can to cope and to learn and to grow from what I've done but we're all human.

president-dickhole9 karma

I’m sorry to hear that you’re finding it tough back in the states. Just wanted to say this is the most interesting AMA I’ve read in a LONG time. All the best.

vdamku9 karma

Thanks mate! I appreciate you.

Threeknucklesdeeper29 karma

Did you have to give up your american citizenship to fight for another country or is it allowed?

vdamku81 karma

No, Ukraine is a US ally, and I was only enlisted, not an officer, so I retain my citizenship. Other countries have different regulations and rules regarding enlisting in foreign militaries.

If I was a commissioned officer, I think perhaps there'd be some question? But I'm not sure.

I went to Ukraine in part on behalf of US interests. I wasn't asked by anyone, but I believe in freedom and I believe and putting up a good fight so I took the risk.

It's pretty hard to lose your American citizenship. You pretty much have to give it up or defect to an enemy nation and THEN commit some treason like selling military secrets or financing terrorism.

bestmechanic23 karma

Heroyam slava!!!

How hard was it to get accepted as a foreigner into the Ukrainian army?

Did they have any requirements before being accepted?

Did you apply for Ukrainian Citizenship?

Do you plan on living in Ukraine or returning to America?

I've wanted to do this, and highly respect you for doing it. Your a brave solider sir!

I married my wife in Poltava Ukraine in 2014, and we were personally affected by this conflict.

Stay safe!

vdamku26 karma

Slightly difficult, but surprisingly not as difficult as one would imagine. Being an American presented its own set of challenges. Some people are thrilled that you are there, some see you as a war tourist, and some think you're CIA there to overthrow democratically elected leaders and start a coup.

I did! Sadly, because of bureaucracy and and other circumstances, I was unable to finalize it during my time there. I think I am still entitled to it, and I will certainly try again to have it finalized and gain Ukrainian citizenship officially in the future.

I plan on retiring in Ukraine, or at least waiting until the conflict has died down enough for me to return. I love Ukraine, I love the land, the people, the architecture, everything. It's amazingly beautiful and I feel my heart partially belongs there. I am doing my best to make a life for myself here in the USA, and grow more as a person before I return. When I return, I wish to live peacefully, if it is even possible, as I'll always have to look over my shoulder.

anikm213 karma

I did! Sadly, because of bureaucracy and and other circumstances, I was unable to finalize it during my time there

Would you also have to get rid of your US citizenship? Ukraine doesn't do dual citizenships.

vdamku8 karma

Technically, yes, functionally, no. While dual citizenships aren't technically recognized by the UA government, there's a couple million people with dual citizenships. I would never relinquish my US citizenship, which is a very valuable thing.

Sisko4President21 karma

How has your opinion on this conflict evolved since your experiences there?

vdamku62 karma

Great question!

Significantly so. Since then, I've done lots of psychedelics and have had ample time to reflect and grow and learn new information. When I was 18/19, I wanted to be a hero. I saw events as only a fresh-out-of-highschool kid can- very black and white. As I've grown and developed over the past 4 years I certainly have a different attitude on the subject.

I think brother wars are terrible. I still believe, adamantly, that Ukraine should be a free nation and a free people. The Kremlin does not, has not, and likely will not recognize that Ukrainians are their own ethnic identity (even though there is certainly overlap, there's enough of a distinction to warrant a separate identity) or their own sovereign people. They just see them as Russians. They see the whole former combloc as territories that are just waiting to get re-absorbed.

"Russia is a peaceful country, surrounded by countless cease-fires"

As I've matured, I've opened my eyes to a fair bit of wrongdoing on UA/US/EUs side that I would have once overlooked.

I do not care for violence as I once did. I was certain that enough separatist blood shed would solve problems, but it didn't it hasn't and probably won't. Too many people have died for a conflict that has amounted to nothing. Because of the continued fighting, Ukraine cannot be in NATO or enjoy it's protections. It's natural gas and coal is getting fug'd by occupying forces. Oligarchs on both sides get richer and the young get colder.

press-f-for-respect18 karma

Who or what was the major influencer in your decision? How has this influenced/effected/inspired others that are close to you?

vdamku44 karma

Honestly, other than what I've already described in my decision making process:

Call of Duty 4.

Metal Gear Solid.

I've been fortunate enough to significantly impact people's lives in a tangible, positive way since I've been back, on a multitude of occasions. Some people think I'm a fascist mercenary baby killer, some people can't point out Ukraine on a map, some people are incredibly grateful and taken aback in disbelief. I honestly wouldn't believe it if someone with my jovial disposition, soft face, and background told me they did what I've done.

I've had about a dozen or so Ukrainians at one point or another express their deepest gratitude to me, and it truly warms my heart and more often than not it lifts me up from my depression to be reminded that someone gives a fuck and is proud of you for trying to change the world.

Reddit0sername18 karma

How did your parents/friends react to your decision to go?

vdamku54 karma

I told my parents I was going to build homeless shelters or be a librarian or something silly at first. Only after I was pressured for pictures did I send back a picture of me in full kit to varied response.

My mom was mildly concerned, but understood I was doing something I was passionate about.

My father was less amused.

edit: I had extraordinary support from my Facebook friends, they supported me with memes all the way.

SuperKamiTabby15 karma

What kind of weapons did you use, and did you have any military experience beforehand?

vdamku37 karma

My daily carry was an AK-74, 5.45x39mm. Occasionally carried a Makarov. Often carried several RPG22s (nearby, not on my person obviously). Towards the end of my fighting I was on a PKM 7.62x54mmR.

No experience! I tried to enlist in the US Army, but due to a torn ACL it didn't happen. I fibbed a bit about my experience to get my foot in the door initially. I'd say, compared to the wealth of experience of the other warfighters around me, I did exceptionally well. All I had was a strong will and good street smarts. I am certainly unique in that sense.

I honestly couldn't tell you how I'm alive, and I wouldn't recommend anyone venturing to a warzone without weapons experience or a sharpened intuition. Also, know the language and know how to blend in.

SuperKamiTabby4 karma

So I read in another reply you had a bounty on you. How did you find out, and how did that effect you?

vdamku15 karma

Found out through higher ups in my unit and a neighboring one.

I didn't take it very seriously at first, initially I was like "cOmE kIdNaP tHiS dIcK" bc that's what 19 year olds do.

It eventually became a little bit worrisome. I got a lot of respect for the SBU dudes and their Russian GRU counterparts, and you gotta give em their dues.

Towards the end it cycled back around to "I don't really care but I don't feel like being a political prisoner".

grefg2314 karma

How was the preparation training?

vdamku19 karma

I didn't have any. This, however, wasn't the norm.

Vavooon9 karma

Heroyam slava! Are you aware of latest actions of Ukrainian authorities and does it look like some kind of surrender for you?

vdamku22 karma

I had such hope after Yanukovich. I had a little hope for Poroshenko. I like Zelenskyy as a person, and he is in a very difficult spot. Not much has changed during the course of the war. Something has to give. It's a game of attrition, and against the Kremlin, the game is rigged from the start.

I think it's good he's exploring options, I think it would be nice to see peace and an end to fighting, and it would be nice ideally to have a productive discussion between separatist leaders and UA authorities that resulted in a LASTING cease-fire at the very least.

Some people will see it as weak-willed and surrendering in a sense, but realistically speaking, there's not much to do. Haven seen the state of UA military affairs on the ground, it's kinda sad. Without air superiority and NATO backing, UA is pretty helpless strategically and the longer things progress without a treaty the longer more young slavic men have to die.

elijah_christipher9 karma

How well trained and professional are the Russian soldiers? Are they better or worse than the average NATO soldier would be, what is the general opinion on their capacity in the battlefield?

vdamku22 karma

They are certainly professional, adequately trained, morale depending on if they're conscripted/volunteer. I think it's hard to draw a linear comparison; Any platoon-sized element engaging with a similar size, NATO would win more often than not in most of Europe. In Russia's backyard though, it's trickier.

Russians are as capable as their doctrine permits them to be and their ROEs allow.

4v4, NATO any day.

50 v 50, NATO any day.

1000+ vs 1000+, depends on who has the intel, air control, geographic advantage, etc.

EastSlidr8 karma

What formal military training did you receive prior to enlisting?

vdamku17 karma

Absolutely zero. I did JROTC in high school, and I grew up in Texas so I had firearms experience. I played a lot of FPS games and studied military history/doctrine/theory until I felt like I wouldn't die immediately.

vdamku12 karma

To clarify; it is not the standard for the Ukrainian Army to put someone in a unit without prior military experience or going through basic training. I was a special case.

Dyslex99913 karma

What made you a special case, was the fact you were an American and they didn’t care or you had a special skill that they saw being useful? Good for you for following your passion. That’s awesome.

vdamku9 karma

Being an American, as well as having a special skill, as well as being one of the first to even do such a thing. There was a lot of press about it.

AK301958 karma

What are your plans for the future(once this pandemic has concluded)?

Has fighting in a conflict like this made you disillusioned with politics and the workings of the world?

vdamku25 karma

Disillusioned, certainly. I end up tuning most of the current happenings out unless it requires my attention.

The world is in a very sad state of affairs, and lot of it has to do with international banking and our governments/leaders seeking to extend and secure their power rather than serve their people.

I think the best thing that anyone who is saddened by the world's politics can do is to be kind. Kindness is very important. Make a few people smile everyday and you do a good thing. It's important to know what is within your sphere of control, and to focus on that, instead of worrying about things that you cannot control.

My future plans: go to school in the fall for IT/Cybersecurity, find a woman who will put up with my shit, build a cabin in the woods, grow my own food, get a doggo, work remotely from home if possible. I want to become the best person I can be before my timer is up.

nlolhere6 karma

Why did you decide to fight in Ukraine’s armed forces?

vdamku10 karma

I'm partially Ukrainian by heritage. I am inclined to believe in the ideals of freedom, being an American. Ukraine is a US ally, and I wanted to fight for something I believed to be right, no matter the cost.

ilovebigknockers6 karma

Do you speak Ukrainian? If not, how difficult was communication? What were your main tasks while enlisted?

vdamku30 karma

Communication was very difficult at times. I knew more Russian than Ukrainian, which was workable. There was a lot of miming and gesturing involved, often.

I spent a lot of time manning guard posts, doing light reconnaissance, occasionally tagging along on Direct Action missions. Most people don't realize that war is 98% boring shit with 2% of real action.

I spent a lot of my spare time trying to match with Ukrainian girls on Bumble, cleaning my rifle, getting yelled at, watching conscripts drink themselves half to death, and posting dank memes on social media.

scarface2cz5 karma

were your gaming experiences and military history experience of any use?

vdamku6 karma

Actually, yeah. This is going to sound crazy maybe, and I mean no disrespect to any other veterans, but there were times to where I felt like my years of playing competitive FPS really came in handy. It helped me keep calm under pressure and it helped with my reflexes/tactics.

I'm glad I studied what I did, understanding the context to not only the conflict your engaged in but warfare in general is important. You gotta understand yourself, and understand why people do shit, to understand to your enemy, and to have a solid chance at wrapping your head around all the mayhem.

cogra235 karma

Were you arrested or questioned when you returned home? I know that has happened when people have come back from fighting with the YPG.

vdamku9 karma

Arrested, no. Thoroughly questioned several times over several years, yes.

I committed no crime and am not a threat to national security. However, those who have fought with the YPG, them being radical communists with a questionable human rights record(who doesn't over there, though), receive a bit more scrutiny and legal trouble because that whole region is a geopolitical clusterfuck and once you start 'freedom fighting' in the middle east it's a slippery slope and the US doesn't much care for people who get in the way like that, in my opinion.

MrSyaoranLi5 karma

Have you watched the docu Winter on Fire? Is it accurate to what you experienced?

vdamku4 karma

Great documentary! I found it pretty accurate. I'd recommend it to anyone who is uninitiated about the situation there and the events leading up. It obviously is missing a few details, but it's a good place to start.

ChuckNorrisAteMySock4 karma

What's your best memory from your time in the trenches?

vdamku31 karma

I like this question.

It's a tie, and one of them are going to sound a bit messed up.

First, one night after a long firefight a stray dog that frequented our position found its way into my hole and curled up next to me. I got all emotional and shit. He laid there with me for 6 whole hours.

Second, I watched(through a spotting scope) a separatist roll over a faulty/modified anti-tank mine or possibly an IED (in no man's land, about 750m away from my entrenchment in a Ural transport and get fucking eviscerated. Felt the pressure of the shockwave hit my eyeballs. It gave me a healthy respect for explosives.

highvelocityfish4 karma

If you don't mind my saying, nothing screams Texas like a baseball cap and Oakleys. You've got an awesome story and I suspect it'd make an interesting book, particularly as it seems you've got a very clear and frank view you could share.

Did it feel like your age mattered to the folks you were fighting alongside? And if you don't mind my asking, what are your plans from here?

vdamku6 karma

yee (and I can't stress this enough) haw

I was definitely rocking a backwards baseball cap and oakley m-frames at one point.

Some were impressed that an American kid my age even made it over there, and some were so against the idea that they fought tooth and nail to prevent me from reaching the front.

Well, I'm still figuring life out at this point. I'm a musician and I'm trying to get that off the ground, I had just started playing shows when the whole shanghai shivers thin popped off. I want to work in Cybersecurity in the future if society doesn't collapse. I want to get stronger, smarter, and more self-reliant. I want to make more friends.

EastSlidr4 karma

And, how were you able to convince the Ukrainians you were sincere and not a spy?

vdamku23 karma

For some, there's no convincing. There were plenty that thought I was a spy and probably do to this day.

For the patriots however, all it takes is a conversation. I speak Russian like an American, but not so well like a 'State Department' guy would. I had rookie eyes and took lots of selfies. Spies aren't typically embedded into lower enlisted units, that sort of stuff happens at the brigade/division level AFAIK.

recko404 karma

Do you work with any US or UK intelligence agencies to provide them information concerning tactics or capabilities the russians had?

vdamku12 karma

After I returned to the US, I passed along some information to US intelligence per their request. I was happy to oblige.

As for the UK, there were a few folk in Ukraine of UK origin who I'm sure had similar experiences.

JoshuaS9044 karma

What food and drink do you miss the most?

vdamku26 karma

The food in Ukraine is the best I've ever had. As an American, you don't realize how over-engineered and lacking our food and dairy is until you go somewhere like Ukraine that is so fertile, with soil so rich in nutrients, and a thriving agro-culture. McDonald's is practically a 5-star restaurant there, it's unreal.

I'd have to say my favorite NA drink I miss is Kvass. Favorite alcohol I miss is this honey-mead beer I used to pound at a Porter Pub in Kyiv.

My favorite food; Vareniki, Salo, and gretschka(sic).

Runner up on favorite food is this Georgian cheesy bread from a street vendor, even though it's not indigenous to UA, to me it's inextricable from my experience there.

Norgeroff3 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

vdamku12 karma

Yellow and Blue.

EuropeanWannabe173 karma

What kind of tactics were used in the conflict? Weaponry? Etc? Thanks for doing this, btw!

vdamku15 karma

It's predominately static, meaning a lot of embedded trench warfare. It's mad shitty. There's very little urban fighting anymore. Most of the engagements are 100m-1km.

Common weaponry for the well equipped unit would be AK-74s, AKMs, PKMs, DShkAs, RPG22/26/7. On both sides.

Russians and Russian-backed forces operated a lot of artillery. The Russian strategy when overtaking a target city/town, is to shell the fuck out of it for 2 weeks (82mm, 120mm GRAD) then advance with armor/infantry and dig in. When I was there, there wasn't a whole lot of give and take when it came to fighting. A lot of regularly scheduled firefights from entrenched positions and harassment with mortars/PKMs.

When it comes to doing recon and sneeky-breeky stuff, we had out AK-74s, subsonic ammo, and suppressors.

Good intel is the most dangerous weapon on the battlefield.

Proudvirginian693 karma

Do you feel ok that you are going to be in a tts Redit video??

vdamku2 karma

That's fine! DM me a link after it's completed.

FindMyMusic3 karma

How is this different to foreign fighters joining ISIS or mercenary work?

If an Australian travels to war zone and participates in combat roles they lose their citizenship, is the same not true for US citizens?

vdamku12 karma

ISIS is a terrorist group, for starters.

I'm not sure if that's true about Australia, I worked with an Australian gentlemen and he certainly still has his citizenship.

Nations are primarily concerned with people who either A) Fight against national interests/against allies/to the aid of enemies and B) people who travel to a warzone to receive military experience, get radicalized ideologically, and then come back and become a lone wolf or some shit.

Asking how this is different than joining ISIS is a bit dumb. Ukraine is a US/NATO ally for one, and two they don't decapitate people/massacre villages/blow up children/rape women by the hundreds.

Different countries have different rules about mercenary work. If you're doing military stuff for a company that's authorized by the Defense Department, then you're good. If you're doing private stuff that's not officially sanctioned, it depends on what you're doing and who you're doing it for. As long as you don't commit warcrimes you're usually fine, generally speaking.

FindMyMusic3 karma

Didn't know Ukraine was in NATO, Imagined it would be similar to going to any country X and joining their fight. Did you researched and was assured that would be ok before you left or did you know or assumed that it should be OK because Ukraine was in NATO?

vdamku9 karma

Ukraine is not in NATO. Ukraine is a NATO ally. I did do a bit of research and decided whatever the risk, it would be worth it.

FindMyMusic4 karma

You remind me of one one of the American writers, I can't remember who but I think it was on TIL , (maybe Hemingway) he went to fight in some war he didn't have to, and did bunch of other crazy stuff he didn't had to but risked any way, do you have any inclination on type of the projects that you might keep going? or just going to get an accounting job and go for a quite life from now on?

At any rate, some souls are too restless to be contained, looking forwards to your next AMA on what ever crazy adventure/project you pull off again, best of luck. Hope I don't miss it.

vdamku4 karma

For Whom the Bell Tolls, yes.

I've thought about it a lot, there may be some crazy adventures in my future but I have a lot of self-development to do in the meantime and I gotta get my finances straight before I embark on any other whacky shenanigans. For the meantime, I value my peace, and I enjoy living a quiet life.

Thanks so much for your support, it really means a lot!

KingCrazy1883 karma

How was Ukraine? do you think that situation in ukraine will improve or worsen?

vdamku11 karma

Cold, beautiful, empowering, and grey.

I think it's going to get better for a little while but here in the next 5 years there's going to be an unprecedented spike in violence in the region.

yourmomsbaux3 karma

Hey man, thanks for all you've done. It sounds like you're continuing the proud American tradition of the Lincoln Brigade.

I have had encountered Azov guys that kind of were worrying, mostly because it seemed they had some very hard right wing or Neo-Nazi ideas. Did you find this prevalent during your time there? Are there differences in the distribution of these ideas from unit to unit? Where would you ptt the black and red flag wavers on the political spectrum?

vdamku3 karma

Yeah, there's definitely some far-right ideology out there. Azov isn't as radical as it used to be from my understanding, but I never interacted much with them. I'd say out of every 100 regular soldiers, probably 5-10 leaned REALLY far right. On the separatist side, you get far-left radical commies, but at the end of the day they're pretty fashy.

There's definitely a difference in distribution, the volunteer battalions end up being filled with more hardline folks because they give a fuck more than your average joe.

The red/black nationalist flag has some connotations attached to it for sure, but it's important to understand that nationalism as it exists in Ukraine is much different than nationalism as an entity here in the states. I don't think it's inherently wrong to be a nationalist if you're Ukrainian, but it's a slippery slope to human rights violations if left unchecked. Same for the opposite side of the spectrum.

Ukraine attracted a lot of foreigners with right-wing beliefs not necessarily just because of latent Nazi beliefs amongst the people, but moreso because where else can you fight communism in this day and age?

Hope I answered your question.

Logan123_2 karma

In the Ukraine military training do they hit you? or it’s just like America: yelling and soft pushes

vdamku9 karma

I didn't go through their basic program, but from what I've heard it definitely is a lot more physically involved.

Street_Light_Eyes2 karma

A great thread, u/vdamku. Thanks for taking the time!

I'm curious to know a bit more about your journey from the airport to the front lines. Did you enlist prior to your arrival or after you had landed? Were you dispatched from Kyiv? I'd love to hear more about this process.

vdamku2 karma

After! I had to go through their version of MEPS. I did leave from Kyiv, it was a 15 hour drive to the front. I'll give a more detailed response here shortly.

Artificecoyote2 karma

What gear did you typically run with?

vdamku7 karma

Condor plate carrier, 3/4" steel plates front, back, kidneys. A used UK Mk7 kevlar helmet. AK74, 8 mags, 2 RGD5 grenades, 1 F1 grenade w/ zero second fuse. Uniform. Walmart boots.

tigerwhal2 karma

What are you doing with your life now?

vdamku15 karma

Not as much as I'd like some days. I work for a private security company now, and I drink a lot. I'm only 23 and so I'm still trying to figure things out. Life is hard.

ItzSpiffy6542 karma

You mentioned you played a lot of FPS, what’s your favorite game and what do you play on ex. PC, playstation, xbox etc etc etc?

vdamku8 karma

I was a semi-pro Counter-Strike (1.6/Source) player back when I was a teenager. I played a lot of STALKER, Fallout, Metal Gear Solid, CoD, etc.

I'd have to say my favorite game of all time has to be Deus Ex, the original.

I've always been partial to PC gaming.

ItzSpiffy6542 karma

Did you ever play anything post source like CSGO? Got nearly 1700 hours in that game

vdamku3 karma

I played a fair bit of CSGO when it first released, but the whole model of it (and gaming in general) makes me a little sad. Valve stopped making games and started making money. It's all about stickers and microtransactions now.

Kibisek1 karma

Are you waiting for the new stalker game that may come out in the next year?

vdamku1 karma

a nu cheeki breeki v damku

auGUStine_4312 karma

Do you think Russia will try to invade Eastern NATO countries?

vdamku12 karma

Not until they're ready and willing to start WW3. Russia's MO with exerting influence TYPICALLY just means heavy propaganda/social influencing. Lots of proxy shit.

DavisSquared1 karma

Why?

vdamku1 karma

Why not?

edaddyo1 karma

How involved were you with the hacking of the Democratic Party? Did you personally give Joe Biden 10 million dollars? Did you work for Crowdstrike when you were there? (/s for the unknowing)

On a serious note, have the psychedelics helped with the PTSD?

vdamku1 karma

Love this comment.

YES. Absolutely. They've also helped with personal and spiritual development. I think everyone should do psilocybin at some point. It promotes neurological health and actually helped me with hearing loss.

I like Graham Hancock and Paul Stemets and the variety of advocates that have been on JRE.

JON-NEESE-1 karma

How are volunteers treated in the armed forces?

vdamku13 karma

Can't speak for the South Americans, Europeans, or Caucasians, but as an American, it's a mixed bag.

Some people think you're the shit, some are upset that you're even there, some are indifferent. As soon as you get to the front though, it's predominately "oh yo wtf blyat i've only seen Americans in movies".

That being said, everyone gets treated like shit, myself including. I was nearly on the end of some nasty blue-on-blue incidents, several times.

JON-NEESE-5 karma

Jesus Christ and I thought being the US army was chaotic at times. How do you guys deal with IDF like rockets and mortars. Do you guys have a mortar radar?

vdamku7 karma

Some important units might, we didn't. You knew mortars were coming if there was whistling or a loud continuous wooshing in the sky.

BatyStar1 karma

Any favorite Ukraian or Russian songs?

vdamku1 karma

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dbcMgYtyTk

I love the old folk stuff played on out of tune guitar. Oh, and hardstyle.

Auspants1 karma

How does your experience compare to the sources out there showing all foreign volunteers are a pack of wannabes who are kept away from heavy fighting and just swan around acting superior to everyone else?

vdamku2 karma

Most foreign volunteers ended up in various private volunteer battalions, which had various levels of involvement in actual fighting.

Because I was with the UA ground forces, I'd say I got to see more than some but less than a lot. Because of contacts I made in the UA Army I got to do some things you might not catch on a Vice article.

Typically foreigners are kept away from the front bc a lot of them are retarded and it's hard to bring a dead body to an embassy and be like "he ded" without political pushback

Auspants1 karma

So as an 18 year old, what did you bring other than being a warm body?

vdamku1 karma

Lol for real though, great question.

Language skills, willpower, a positive attitude. I got in the way sometimes but the positive things I did balanced things out.

SadRass0 karma

Did you ever seen someone get killed or do you kill somebody in a batlle?

vdamku14 karma

I certainly didn't see as much as some did, but I did witness a few unfortunate deaths on both sides.

When it's life or death, you do what you gotta do to keep the ones around you safe.

Crazyblind-1 karma

That's so cute when you say that you fought with russian army. How many russian airplanes have you seen? Maybe a lot of russian tanks were diving into Ukraine? What about Russian attacks from the sea? Oh yeah, Russia annexed Crimea and there isn't even one Ukrainian soldier there) All of them are fighting with their own people and you were helping one relatives to kill another in a civil war. What a hero.

vdamku2 karma

Uniformed Russian Army forces were rare to come across, but certainly were present in country. I saw 1 MiG personally and several transport helicopters that I do not know the name of.

There's nothing civil about the war. Stay mad, Ivan. Perhaps you should watch some more RT. What have you done to end the conflict? Remember, watching anime and invading neighboring countries doesn't count.