There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” about military embeds and the Russians are masters of the art.
Getting to the eastern end of Siberia and to the training bases at Telembar and Tsugol is a military operation in and of itself so it helps to do it with them.
It has involved hours waiting in military airports, hours spent on buses juddering along rutted roads, an overnight flight on a Tupolev-154 airliner straight out of the early 1980s, helicopter rides and crossing multiple time zones.
For those of the press corps foolish enough to turn up even fractionally late for the 5am starts, it has also involved a proper telling-off before you slink shame-faced on to the bus.
For a visual spectacular though, there was no beating the main act on Thursday.
Computer programmers would kill to make war games as compelling and as compulsive as these.
War is grotesque and the hardware man uses to obliterate his fellow man (woman and child) is ruthless, indiscriminate and appalling.
However, to watch the helicopters swarm in and the troops fast-rope out, to hear the skies tear as the bombers fly past unleashing massive firepower at targets on the tundra, to feel the boom of a grad missile ricochet through your stomach – it is horrifying and awe-inspiring all at once.
It doesn’t take much to imagine that Russia’s president standing just metres away was savouring every moment of those drills.
Vladimir Putin insisted Russia is a “peaceful nation” after watching the war games – a week-long display of drills which have been billed as the biggest in the country’s history.
“We do not want and cannot have any aggressive plans,” he said.
He also said it was a soldier’s duty to be ready to defend their country and its allies and pledged to “further strengthen our armed forces” and “supply them with the latest generation of weapons and equipment”.
Having been at the wrong end of Russian firepower in Georgia and in Ukraine, it is also reassuring that here everyone goes home in the end and no one gets hurt.
Not all that dissimilar from other Russian drills – say journalist colleagues who’ve seen a few.
For all the headline numbers of 297,000 Russian troops taking part, it’s hard to get a sense of scale especially as those taking part on Thursday was less than a tenth of that.
What was new was the involvement of Chinese troops – 3,200 of them – there to learn what they could from Russia’s combat experience in Syria.
And to send a message to whoever’s watching out west that sanctions and trade wars will only strengthen alliances further east. You can be sure that both the US and NATO are.
NATO says Vostok 2018 demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict, honed as it has been this last decade in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria.
It is also the kind of great power status Mr Putin wants to project to his people and the outside world, even if the defence budget shrank last year and is dwarfed by US and NATO military spending.
It is still an expense he must justify to his people, angered as they are from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok by proposals to raise the pension age.
These military drills and the image of Russia that they project look like an attempt to do just that.