The 51st Guards Mechanized Brigade was a formation of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, stationed at Volodymyr-Volynskyi in Volyn Oblast, on the border with Poland. The Brigade drew its history from the 51st Guards Rifle Division, which was formed from the 76th Rifle Division midway through the Second World War. In late 1942 the 76th Rifle Division decimated the German force holding and protecting Kletskaya, a key industrial city with numerous metal works factories. For it, the division was promoted to Guards (Советская Гвардия) status on November 23, 1942 and became known as the 51st Guards Rifle Division.
Action in World War II
Stalingrad, Kursk, the Baltic: 1943–1945
In November 1942, the newly renamed Division was sent back to Stalingrad where it helped encircle and trap the attacking German 6th and 4th Panzer Armies during Operation Uranus. For its participation in the battle of Stalingrad, the unit was decorated with the Order of Lenin. In the summer of 1943, it was sent to complement tanks and other armored vehicles during the Battle of Kursk in Ukraine, once again retaking the cities of Belgorod and Bogodouqovye. From Kursk, the division was sent northward to push back German Army Groups Center and North. Under the command of General Ivan Bagramyan, the 1st Baltic Front commander, it liberated the Belorussian cities of Vitebsk and Polotski. Continuing its advance to the west, the 51st Guards Division took part in pushing Army Group North out of the former Soviet republics the Soviet Union had annexed in 1940, Latvia and Lithuania.
Its sacrifice and courage in recapturing Vitebsk were recognized as it was bestowed with the honorary title of Vitebskyan in October 1944. One of the division's artillerymen Aramais Sarkisyan was killed in combat in Belorussia on June 25, 1944 and was recognized as a Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honorary title for individuals in the Soviet Union. In the Latvian province of the Courland Peninsula was the final bastion of Army Group Courland. Despite repeated attempts to take the region, the German units resisted and successfully fended off Red Army offensives. In May 1945, the 51st Division was sent to Courland where it managed to isolate the forces remaining at the peninsula. On May 8, 1945 the remainder the garrison surrendered. The 51st division passed through approximately 7,000 kilometers of former Soviet territory and liberated over 600 towns and cities from the Axis occupying forces. Twenty-one men in the division were recognized as Heroes of the Soviet Union.
The division's final wartime honorary title was '51 Guards Rifle Vitebsk Order of Lenin, Red Banner Division Armenian in the name of Voroshilov.'
Since World War II
The 51st Guards MRD (first formation) was formed after the Second World War from the 51st Guards Rifle Division but disbanded in the late 1950s in the Baltic Military District. Its honours and awards were taken over by the 29th Guards Rocket Division of the Strategic Rocket Forces.
In late 1947 the 15th Guards Rifle Division was relocated from the Austrian city of Vladimir-Volyn and Lyuboml. In the postwar years the unit's soldiers helped civilians rebuild postwar economy, harvest, were involved in the construction of irrigation systems in the Kuban and the Crimea. In September 1965, in an Order of the Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union commemorating the 51st Guards Rifle Division, which staunchly took the first blows of the German-Soviet war, the 15th Guards Rifle Division was given the number "51" and the honorary title of "Perekopskaya", becoming the 51st Guards Motor Rifle Division (second formation). It remained as part of the 13th Army (Soviet Union) in the Carpathian Military District since the late 1940s (when it was reassigned from the disbanding 5th Guards Army) until the fall of the Soviet Union.
In 1988 the division comprised the 170th Tank Regiment, 44th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment, 47th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment, 50th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment, 43rd Guards Artillery Regiment, and 59th Anti-Aircraft Rocket Regiment, plus smaller units.
On January 19, 1992 personnel of the division took the oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the 1991 Declaration of Independence of Ukraine. During the 1990s, the 13th Army was redesignated the 13th Army Corps. On September 17, 1999 in the framework of the 800th anniversary of the Volyn-Galician Principality and to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Division received from the President of Ukraine, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma Battle Flag and the honorary title of "Volyn" (Ukaz No. 1193/99).
Some 400 reservists will be added to the brigade's personnel in time of war to bring troop numbers up to wartime strength. The median age of the reserves, which in 2005 consisted of 440 officers, sergeants, and soldiers, is 25–30 years old.
The brigade was involved in the army's attempt to stop separatism during the 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine. It suffered 18 deaths after being ambushed near Volnovakha on 22 May 2014. In late July 2014, 40 men from the brigade crossed into Russian territory. By the first week of August, they returned to Ukraine of their own free will. Some of them were charged with desertion. During August 2014, the brigade made three unsuccessful attempts to retake Ilovaisk. On 25 August, brigade soldier Andrei Krupa was captured by Russian troops and released a month later. In October 2014, President Petro Poroshenko ordered the disbandment of the brigade. Elements of the brigade judged to have performed well in combat became the new 14th Mechanized Brigade.
Brigade Order of Battle