Posted: 22.02.2024 13:16:24

What an honour!

Surely each of us has seen the performances of the Minsk Military Commandant’s Office honour guard — if not live, at least on TV or on the Internet. Handsome guys in full uniform — perfectly pressed tunics and snow-white gloves — march at celebrations and lay wreaths at the memorial in Victory Square with amazing synchronicity. The music accompaniment of the honour guard military band of the Minsk Military Commandant’s Office gives a special ceremonial flair to their procession. Our correspondents have found out who can be recruited
to serve in this elite unit and how soldiers achieve impeccable military bearing.

Yelizaveta Kobetskaya

We have learned how honour guard soldiers are trained and whether it is easy to serve in a military band, as well as congratulated them on a special Presidential award to cultural and artistic figures 

Shoulder to shoulder

It is not easy to join the guard of honour team — only tall and healthy enough soldiers can be selected to become guard of honour members. It is no less difficult to master the art of military bearing. After all, behind a spectacular five– to seven–minute performance on the parade square lie many days and hours of hard drills that instill a sense of confidence in soldiers and teach them to stay calm and composed. You need to practise for six hours a day in order to learn to march like soldiers of the honour guard, according to Captain Maksim Dashkevich, Commander of the 2nd Honour Guard of the Minsk Military Commandant’s Office.
“Most of the unit consists of army conscripts. It takes an average of three to four months to train recruits. We start with an individual drill, during which the guys practise techniques in place and comprehend various subtleties. The emphasis is on the movement of hands — they rise higher because the soldiers march with a carbine — pace and step height. After that we complicate the task by working as part of squads and platoons,” our interlocutor explained.
Various devices are used in the training of recruits, such as models of wreaths, weights on hands and legs for practising marching movements. Many guys slouch at first, so wooden T–shaped devices help them correct their posture. Two lessons are usually enough for a soldier to straighten his shoulders, learn to control his body and stop having a ‘question mark’ posture. The captain assured, “Success is 99 percent dependent on the desire of the serviceman. At the same time, we pay no less attention to combat training than other units — soldiers of the honour guard will be able to perform any combat task on a par with other military personnel.”


The face of the Belarusian army

The military personnel of this unit are rightfully called the face of the Belarusian army. After all, they provide all the most important events with the participation of the Head of State, meet foreign delegations, accompany funeral farewell ceremonies with statesmen, and represent our country at socio–political and cultural meetings abroad. This year, it will be possible to see the honour guard performance on July 3rd at the solemn parade in Minsk, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from Nazi invaders. The preparation of the parade square concert has already begun. The performance will feature the display of number 3 by soldiers as one of its elements. Maksim Dashkevich revealed some details, “We will also demonstrate complicated elements with carbine rotation, a programme block called ‘domino’ where soldiers converge into one figure and perform movements in sync.”
The special mission of military personnel is patriotic education of young people. It is one thing when boys can see the honour guard’s performances at celebrations, and it is another thing when they visit the unit, according to the commander.
“School students often visit us as part of an excursion — they are interested in talking with soldiers, exploring the daily routine here, seeing how trainings take place, what kind of uniforms and weapons we have. Military personnel also hold on-site meetings in educational institutions,” he pointed out.

The Honour Guard company is laying flowers at the Victory Monument    Yegor Yermalitskiy

Parade dress rehearsal. Vladislav Shepelevich, Commander of the honour guard combined company   Aleksandr Kulevsky

With a lyre on the shield

The indispensable companion of the honour guard at all significant performances is the honour guard military band of the Minsk Military Commandant’s Office. The basis of its repertoire consists of the National Anthem of Belarus and anthems of other states, ceremonial music, musical compositions on military–patriotic themes, as well as masterpieces of Belarusian and foreign music. The bandmaster, Head of the Minsk Military Commandant’s Office military band Captain Ilya Kupreev told us, “All our musicians pass the way from music school in childhood to college and university.
It was the same for me, too. I graduated from music school specialising in saxophone, entered the Mogilev State College of Arts, after which I continued my studies at the Institute of Military Bandmasters at the Military University in Moscow — this is a unique higher educational establishment in the world where such specialists are trained. There are exceptions, though. Our drummer, Ensign Denis Fastenkov, studied in college with a degree in microelectronics, took drum lessons in his spare time and joined our team to serve under contract. The backbone of our team was formed long ago — there are musicians who have been playing in it for 20 years. Along with that, there are a lot of young people, too.”
Military musicians are a special caste, because they have to combine two seemingly incompatible things, Ilya Kupreev is convinced, “On the one hand, it is the army with its rigid framework and discipline; on the other hand, it is music and creativity.”
Here, we should give credit to our servicemen — they manage to successfully combine these concepts. During the service, they get a good chance to improve their endurance — unlike civilian orchestras, they mostly play in the open air, in any weather. Even in winter, in the cold.

Yevgeniy Vovna, Solo artist of the highest category     YELIZAVETA KOBETSKAYA
The special Presidential Prize to cultural and artistic figures was awarded to the 1st and 2nd squads and the military band of the Minsk Military Commandant’s Office honour guard for significant achievements in patriotic education of young people, active participation in socio–political and cultural events.
By Viktoria Derzhanovich