Tironot: Basic Training
Pushups. I do a lot of push ups. If I’m not doing them when I leave, I’m doing them when I arrive.
Basic training at Michve Alon is of the caliber of a non-combat soldier, level 02. But its no cake walk. The toughest person to deal with is our Samelet. It’s the rank above commander, though the number of stripes is the same. Her face looks so young she looks as though she is 12 years old, and I’m convinced she is still only 18 years of age. Her job is mainly to protect discipline. And she does her job with an iron fist.
Her movements are manly. She walks slowly, she speaks with purposeful pauses that make you wait in fear. Her steps are slow, and her gaze is far. Her voice is deep, almost like a man’s. Sometimes I think she really wanted to be an actress, decided to put on this role, and then at some point forget herself in it. Either way, she is a real hard ass.
She’s also cute. I think she picked me to be her bitch, because it seems like our whole division doesn’t get to eat dinner unless I do at least one set of pushups first.
At Michve Alon I firmly believe they run subtle tests to determine the character and strengths of individuals there, perhaps for particular placement in the military. Here is one such story that happened to me, but I can only speculate about it in the end. At dinner time I placed my canteen on the sink outside the cafeteria and turned around to fix the faulty zipper on my new coat. When I turned back around, the canteen was gone. I knew I was in trouble, but I reported the problem to the nearest commander. The commander then pulled out from seemingly nowhere a canteen and asked if it was mine. It looked nothing like mine, and as I thought for a second about how easy it would be to say it was mine and get out of an endless number of times I would get into trouble for not showing up to places without my canteen, I admitted it was not mine.
By the end of dinner, my own commander came up to me and asked where is my canteen, after I explained what happened, the commander went to a group of other commanders standing together nearby. She then returned to me, with my canteen, and said I am sanctioned because I lost it. Had a soldier taken my canteen, they’d have kept it for themselves. No commander would have been able to return it let alone find it for me. The only way for a commander to have returned it to me, is if it was one of the commanders who took it in the first place!
Was I the victim of a test to determine my honesty?
It’s a well known rumor that our commanders will attempt to steal the things we are supposed to keep with us at all times, like our gun, so I really think a commander took my canteen when they saw I wasn’t being careful. And on top of that, they’ll punish us for letting them steal our stuff!
We run everywhere we go, and have only precious seconds to get there. We must carry at all times our gun and our canteen of water. If an individual forgets the canteen, he or she is “sanctioned”. Part of the punishment is that one doesn’t know exactly what that means until its carried out, which is usually days later.
I myself “earned” 2 personal sanctions, and my unit itself had 2 group sanctions. When it was time to carry out the punishment, we learned this meant being given an impossible amount of time to reach an extremely far destination. Failure to arrive on time meant push-ups, and more running at impossible times. By the time we were finished, and given a “clean slate”, my hands were covered in deep marks from the bits of jagged of rocks that everywhere cover the ground.
On the bright side, my arms are getting bigger.
After that, we were eating dinner, and after 14 minutes and 50 seconds we are supposed to count down the last ten seconds and the designated person (who ever sits at the far right of the table) must yell “The time has come, attention Commander!”. I was the person to have to yell it, but my mouth was full during the last ten seconds and all the tea I drank in that time to help gulp down the dessert I ate didn’t help enough. Three seconds after the count was over, I shouted the phrase, and the Samelet approached me, and asked what took me so long. I said my mouth was full, and she said “you’re sanctioned”.
Its important to keep a state of calm, because that’s life in the army. Sometimes its easy to stay in Zen, like when you are sitting on your ass with your gun and a piece of bread. Sometimes its hard to stay in Zen, like when you lose your canteen or have to line up in front of the Samelet. Which is at least four times a day.
Once in a rare while, things lighten up. Like during our first aid class when we were being taught what to do if we find a soldier who lost consciousness. The commander asked for two volunteers, one to lay down unconscious and one to demonstrate the recovery technique. The soldier tasked with recovery followed the instructions he was given but it became quite a different thing altogether:
“Lift his head”, he lifted his head up a bit.
“Put your hand in his side, and turn him over”…here it became weird. He laid down at the soldier’s side, stuck his hand behind the guy’s waist and turned him over, ending in a spoon position. I guess he just couldn’t do it any other way.
We all did our best to keep a straight face, we can’t laugh unless we’re on break. Any other time, its forbidden, and we’re punished if we laugh or smile, or anything like that.
The commander continued: “The way we taught you with your hand, open his mouth”
The soldier didn’t understand and while lying next to the unconscious person, in a tight spooning position, began fanning the person’s face with his hand. At this point, the commander broke into laughter and turned around in an attempt to hide her failure to keep a straight face.
At this point, the room burst into laughter.
So remember, if you see an unconscious soldier, turn him on hise side, and Spoon him. Don’t forget to fan his face. Its good bedside manner. He’ll thank you for it.
I think few people in the army understand me as a volunteer soldier. Here’s an illustration:
We get one free hour in which we can use our phones, shower, use the bathroom, talk to our social worker, ready our beds for sleep, change out of our uniforms, etc etc. It’s the hour before bed. On Thursday night of this week our Mamach (I don’t know what the main job of a Mamach is, but same number of stripes as a commander) saw me in my uniform during the free hour and asked why I didn’t change out of it into my pajamas. I always put on my pajamas when we are sent to bed, mainly because I don’t want to make the mistake of doing push-ups in the mud in my pjs like I did the first night.
So I asked “do I have to change into my pajamas now?” The answer is that its not required to be in pajamas, but the Mamach said “Yes, you must.” Knowing this is not correct, I asked again, faking shock. She changed the subject by saying “This is almost bed time, when you must be in your pajamas” to which I answered, “during my free hour I want to be in my uniform. It’s the reason I came here, to be an Israeli soldier. I look at this uniform when I’m in a bad mood, and it gives me a boost.” She looked at me as if she heard what I said, but didn’t understand what I was talking about, and waved me off with her eyes.
Some people just wont understand what I’m talking about. In this sense, as a volunteer, I sometimes feel alone even though I’m surrounded by people.
I think I would sum up army life thus:
I love being a soldier of this country, I hate being in the army.
I love running in my bet uniform, with my gun and my canteen, I hate having to run from place to place.
I love what I do, I hate having to do it. That’s where I’m at.
This coming week will be field week, I bought thermal pants and shirt, but I really am not sure what to expect.
This song captures my mood for the week, sorry non-Russian speakers.