After doing Soviet-Afghan reenactment for well over a decade and even publishing a book on the Airborne impressions for this particular war, I have collected quite some material from reenactment event and photo studio shoots. I hope this article will help newcomers and seasoned reenactors to apply the ideas to their own impressions, no matter what period and army they are actually into.
Simple and strict
Following the rulebook does not always work, but it is a good start. Every conflict is different, some had very strict uniform guidelines and commanders who enforced them, while others were as chill as it gets. Afghanistan was something in between - the higher command wanted strict regulations and there were not much to buy from the civilian market. But soldiers and junior officers, the ones who would actually be doing the military work, they tried their best to improve their equipment with whatever means possible. Nevertheless, depending on the period of the war, as well as on the reenacted situation, it can be a good idea to dress by the book and follow all regulations. Even though the kit might not be the most comfortable to wear, you will definitely look very elegant!
Convenient and comfortable
Anyone who studies military history knows, that when a conflict is going on for more than a week, soldiers start to relax. This is just natural human behavior, and since most conflicts take way more than a week, there is plenty of chill going on at every frontline. So, it is just as natural to start taking equipment off - first the NBC suit, than helmet and armor, then ammo pouches and suddenly you are left with just your rifle! Well, nothing wrong with that - in certain situations, both in actual conflict and in reenactment, this is more than acceptable. So feel free to wear comfortable, but time appropriate costume
Tourist on a trip
Now if you actually have to pretend that you are on a mission, get ready for it by putting on some proper equipment. Camouflage overalls or M88 Afghanka will work fine, depending on the surroundings. You will need something to carry your ammunition and grenades - a simple chestrig made from RD-54 pouches is an obvious choice. If you do not have one yet, and this will become more often in the future as RDs a becoming rare and expensive, feel free to get a chinese Type56 rig or even make one yourself with spare soviet material. Throw a suitable backpack on the back, you will definitely need it for essential supplies - do not stay hungry!
Spetsnaz on a hunt
Now, many people want to be Spetsnaz. The feeling is natural and understandable. For many impressions it is not actually that easy - the equipment, uniform and armament is usually scarce. But for the Soviet spetsnaz in Afghanistan the situation is considerably better. SpN GRU generally used the same uniforms, with the exception of famous Mabuta, as the rest of the 40th army. Equipment and weapons were exactly the same, so putting together a good Spetsnaz impression is really all about knowledge on the topic - on how to mix everything you have correctly.
Here one might ask, how can this pass for a "simple and elegant" impression?? Well, it is only simple because it takes no time for the newcomer to hoard tons of equipment for the topic without any idea of how to put it on. The hard part is to make it look elegant. And in fact, it is not all that hard! Just follow couple of simple rules: 1) Have one specialization. Being a sniper-medic or a machine-gunner in a mortar crew does not cut it.
2) Only carry one firearm at the time. Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan rarely carried more than one firearm on them. They did not even carry pistols most of the time. The only exception would be a group weapon - AGS, HMG or mortar. Every member of the crew was armed with the regular AK alongside.
3) You don't need 10 magazines. Well, maybe you do, but that's not the Soviet way. In most instances soldiers did not carry have access to more than 4-6 mags and they would always carry them in one pouch - chestrig, webbing or ammo bag, but almost never combined. The rest of the ammo was brought in loose packs.
4) Lastly, personal protection. As long as you are not reenacting spetsnaz or very early days of war - you need helmet and body armor. These were worn most of the time by the majority of units