The stay of numerous military personnel in the Chernobyl region required the organization of appropriate logistical and commercial support. Tasks were set for the teams, the need for material resources and equipment was studied.
Despite the difficult organizational conditions of the first days, when all trading organizations of state, cooperative and departmental trade ceased to function in the accident area, the commission nevertheless managed to establish normal work in the shortest possible time.
On April 27, 1986, field canteens were formed directly in Chernobyl and other settlements and deployed on the basis of the Voentorg-418 catering complex. More than 3,000 people ate only in one field canteen located at the Chernobyl stadium.
20 roach coaches began to work around the clock in the zone, a little later there were already 80, with a wide range of food and industrial products, taking into account the needs of soldiers, sergeants, officers, and employees participating in the liquidation of the consequences of the accident.
In addition to military trade workers, hairdressers, shoemakers, seamstresses, and others worked in the zone. In total, more than 2,000 people passed through the military trade enterprises of the Kiev Military District located in the Chernobyl zone, they were specialists from all industries – trade, catering, and household services. By mid-May, 12 field canteens had been deployed in the Chernobyl region, about 20 shops, about 10 tea houses, 82 roach coaches were operating.
But, in spite of all efforts, it became obvious that only full-time workers could not completely cope with the task of servicing the Chernobyl region. On May 14, 1986, for the first time in peace conditions, 300 service personnel were mobilized from the enlisted staff for 960 military trade departments on the basis of a directive of the General Staff of the USSR Ministry of Defense.
Civil Defense – FOR or AGAINST
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was a serious test of ability to act in emergency situations. Colossal Civil Defense forces were brought into the Chernobyl zone. Political workers of CD paid great attention to political and educational work with personnel, for which 26 mobile automobile clubs, 63 film installations, 404 television sets, 228 radio receivers, 116 radio centers, 43 libraries with a total fund of 60 thousand books were used.
Despite some difficulties that traditionally exist among military personnel, almost 90% of the troops lived without crimes and incidents six months after the accident and the start of work of the entire military contingent.
However, some significant weaknesses and shortcomings should be noted along with a positive assessment of the work and great gratitude to the military personnel of various branches of the army who took part in the liquidation of the consequences of the accident. The participants of the first period of work in Chernobyl critically evaluated it later: “Indeed, much could be done faster or optimized the organization, but something would be better not to do at all …”
In the early days, many participants in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident did not imagine the complete danger to which they were exposed, approaching the destroyed reactor. But next to the reactor there were constantly people who were observing, flying on helicopters not equipped with protection, many military and civilians were on the “dirty” sites of the 4th power unit for a long time.
The actions of some military personnel, including chemical officers, underestimated the danger. Ignoring the requirements of radiation safety and violating their basic principles testified to the incompetence of individual officers, to an insufficient level of training and psychological preparedness for performing tasks in real conditions of danger.
Incompetence or spectacular inefficiency
Working in conditions of high radioactive contamination required appropriate protection of people, which, unfortunately, was practically absent at that time. Later, this was described with indignation and bitterness by many direct participants in the events. Radiation protection of workers at the Shelter facility and at the Chernobyl industrial site was a critical task.
However, it was conducted absolutely mediocre in parts of the troops. The army was not prepared for either a nuclear war or for work in appropriate conditions. Later, the military pointed out that the country’s armed forces and their constituent part, the Civil Defense, were, from a professional point of view, practically unprepared for such an event as the Chernobyl disaster.
Many facts speak of the level of their low competence, unpreparedness and ignorance. On May 2, 1986, about 60 civil defense generals were completely lost on the premises of the Chernobyl City Executive Committee – they simply did not understand what they should do, did not know how to organize the work, and some simply refused to work.
It was felt in the aftermath of the accident that the subordination of atomic energy to the USSR Ministry of Energy, that is, to a structure that does not have a sufficient level of knowledge and understanding of the functioning of nuclear power plants, also played a negative role.
Lieutenant General A.P. Gorbachev, the head of the operational group of the engineering forces of the Ministry of Defense, believed that the leadership of the Ministry of Secondary Engineering was to blame for the disorganization and stupidity that occurred at the initial stage of the aftermath of the accident.
It’s what, he assures, transferred “atomic energy” into the hands of the illiterate leaders of the Ministry of Energy, who, in turn, had no thoughts on the specifics of its functioning and did not have an elementary base for training qualified specialists.
Thus, it should be noted that, along with the enormous efforts of the civilian population of the country, scientists, military personnel of all military branches and all military districts of the USSR made a significant contribution to minimizing the consequences of the accident at the 4th power unit of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
However, all their efforts in those extreme conditions, unfortunately, were far from always ensured by the proper attitude of the state towards the organization of safe working and living conditions. Further development of events showed that the fate of almost 600 thousand people who passed through Chernobyl, most of which were conscripts, was far from the way they all deserved.