Well, I don’t know if our Samelet reads my website or not, but this past week I was usually among the very first to be allowed entry to the cafeteria at every meal. The very first time this happened didn’t go so smoothly though.
There we are, all standing in rows of three. Perfectly straight, tense as all hell, and very hungry. I’m standing there, anticipating the usual “run to the court yard (which is way the hell over that way), make a perfect Het formation (looks like this: n)” If we don’t manage it in 10 seconds, we know we’ll do push ups until we get it right.
And then a miracle happened. 1, 2, 3, she says as she points at rows she likes as she passes, betevaon. And I was in one of those rows! “Betevon, Hasemelet!” We shout with the full force of our stomachs.
I walk through the door, saying under my lips “Thank you, God!”
And as someone manages to get a tray and a plate, and even some food before the rest of us manage to line up in front of the chow, the cafeteria staff and one of the fat base N.C.Os tell us this isn’t the time yet (they aren’t ready!). The guy with food on his plate asks “Me too? Do I have to go with them outside as well?” He was answered he can stay and eat!
Note to self: Never ever delay when presented with food.
The 8 unlucky among us look at each other, and our eyes communicate “no way in hell are we going back out there”. Someone missed out on this non-verbal communication, and was already outside when I grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him back inside, lest we all have to leave. So we stood in the corridor, quietly without whispers and absolutely no pin drops. We did our best not to be noticed, but after 5 minutes the N.C.O came back around and kicked us all out.
So there we were, standing in rows of 3, the Samelet asks “No room inside?” (The place was empty of people, they just didn’t have all the food out). We answer “Yes, Hasemelet”, because who cares what the story actually is? Not her, I guarantee it.
Then the order comes:
“Everyone, you have ten seconds to get to the court yard and make a perfect Het, it better be perfect!”…Or we’ll do lots more running and lots more push-ups before we get to eat.
At least now I know why we do so many push-ups before chow time, the cafeteria is never ready. Or maybe we’re brought early? Those people better move their ass in the kitchen, do they even realize what they put us through?
Field week ended on Thursday night. This is when we are taken to some open space, sometimes in the desert down south and sometimes in the mountains up north, under war like conditions, and trained to survive the conditions, etc. I serve in the North, so we were in the field up north.
Field week was a blast, literally. We did a lot of shooting. I spent Christmas Eve killing inanimate targets with live ammo. I sang Christmas carols, ate food off the ground, found un-open chocolates in the garbage, and only a slightly open one by a large rock where my unit ate dinner the night before.
We crawled on the ground, through the jagged rocks. I only found the marks they left on my body in the shower at home yesterday. We learned various postures for running, crawling, and rolling with our weapon. Different ways to creep up on the enemy and move quickly on the battlefield.
It was cold. I did the smart thing and bought olive green thermal clothes to wear under my uniform. I could feel the wind that everyone was complaining about, but not the cold it delivered. The first night in the tent where we slept was alright, except it wasn’t holding together very well. The part of the tent that my buddy (whom I shall call on my blog “Captain Price” because of his English accent and soldier like ways that remind me of Captain Price from Call of Duty) and I were sleeping next to was hitting us all night. A strong wind would cause that part of the wall to lift up inside the tent, and come down fast on my legs, like a whip. It would do the same to Captain Price, but he said it hit his butt. He thought I was hitting him on the ass all night, for some reason.
I was warm in my sleeping bag, but when I got out of the bag in the morning, I was freezing. My hands were very cold, and they shook so badly I couldn’t put my boots on. Anyway, I spent the morning break fixing up the tent, laying heavy rocks on the outside to keep the tent down. Other guys joined in and tied whatever they could on the inside. The tent was warmer, and stopped abusing us at night. Things were fine after that.
Toward the end of field training, our company (made up of four units) was to have a competition. We had to crawl a distance, then chug 5 liters of water, then three from our unit would carry the rest of us back where we started, then we were to do a hundred something push-ups, after which we had to drink some sort of mystery substance.
But first, we had to cover ourselves in war paint. Of course, we weren’t given war paint. We had to figure that out for ourselves. As soon as we were dismissed by our commander to get ready, Captain Price shouted “OK!” and ran with god speed to exposed ground. The rest of us followed as he dug into the ground with a stick. Someone else spilled the contents of his canteen onto the area, Captain Price dug his hands deep into the wet ground and the next thing some poor guy in our unit knew, two palms full of ground hit him straight in the face as Price rubbed the mud into his skin. We thought it was hilarious and stupid, and then we saw the result, a perfect camouflage resulted! We all lined up. Next victim! (I was spitting dirt for a good half hour after that)
Our commander, and the Samelet, were laughing hysterically when they saw this. They did their best to hide their faces with their hands, but they just couldn’t control their laughter. By the time it was go time, we had grass hanging down from our caps, and mud well places all over our face. We crawled fast to the 5 liters of water, Captain Price was the first to grab the jug. He placed it over his mouth in the air, the water came roaring down spilling everywhere. Then he did the same for the next person, and the next person. When it was my turn, more of it went down my shirt in one big wave then I ever felt at any beach. The commander tried to stop us, but she couldn’t successfully utter a word she was laughing so hard at the spectacle we were making. When we finally drank all the water, and were carried back by the three designated guys in our unit, we had to drink some kind of extremely hot and spicy soup like substance.
We were ahead, and drank it down like it was ambrosia. It burned in my mouth for 30 minutes, and whenever I drank water, it burned on my lips and in my mouth for a good 2 hours more. Thats just to give you an idea of what I put in my stomach, and drank in about 3 seconds of competitive momentum.
We took first place. And shouted “Duvdevan! Duvdevan! Deuvdevan!” for a long time, both before the competition and after. That has become our fighting call, I’m not sure why. For those who don’t know, Duvdevan is the name of an Elite unit in the Israel Defense Forces. After this competition, you can hear other guys in other units, shouting “duvdevan” in the showers, bathrooms, halls, etc. Our commander had such a good time, she agreed to take our picture (shown below)!
When we came back from the field, two tankists were there to test our reflexes and to give us a lesson in class about serving the country. Then they said we would do some sport together. They broke us into teams of two persons each. One of the exercises was to lift our partner across our shoulder and race the others to the end of the yard. I lifted my partner, but I forgot to grab his hand so I could balance him, and…basically…as he tells the story: I lifted him up over my shoulder, and threw him across my shoulder as if we were doing combat. He flipped over in the air, and landed on the ground, in some pain. But he was fine, in the end.
Lesson learned, keep eating so you never get to be the one someone has to lift.
Laughter is something not voluntary, and I certainly laughed a lot that night. But what we love even more than to laugh is to make our commanders break that emotional barrier and laugh too. For example, on Thursday night no one seemed to be on kitchen duty. We aren’t allowed to stand up from the table to take food after we already sit down with our trays, we must raise our hands and someone on duty has to come and bring what we need. Our hands were up for a good 5-7 minutes, but no one came. The guy to my left did something, I missed what, and this caused a commander to come and demand to know what the problem was. He explained he needed an egg and soup (not sure how he missed out on that), while I needed a jug of tea (as I had finished ours before most had a chance to try it mind you). She shrugged off his complaint with “so have the soldier bring it to you”, to which we both said “There’s nobody here!”, I whined “We could have our hands up for 30 minutes, no one is here to come and help us”. There we were, two helpless soldiers, looking with what must have been pathetic and hungry eyes. She stared at us, we stared at her, then the silence was broken by my comrade to the left who shouted “I need an egg and soup!”. Our commander broke down laughing, and walked away with her hand covering her mouth. She walked by us one more time, headed for her table, still laughing, a minute later.
Some of our commanders are probably not as mean as they seem to be, the one I just wrote about seems to be really nice actually. I can’t wait till they “break distance” with us. Thats when they tell us their names, and open themselves up for questions from us about their personal lives. I’m not exactly sure when that happens, but I’m hoping its this week when Tironot ends. I think once tironot is over, I can use my phone more freely, currently we are only allowed to use it one hour at night before bed. I miss using the phone, so that’ll be sweet.
Tironot 02 has led some guys that want to join a combat unit for their service to change their mind. I haven’t changed my mind, but it sucks that I’ll have to do tironot again, and at a higher level than this one. The positive is that at least I have an idea of what I’m in for. The negative of course:
Tironot twice! Yikes!
Monday is the day I take the oath to defend Israel. From that point on, the army has full control over me, and can punish me to the full extent of the army laws. Right now forgetting our gun means waiting 2 hours more on Friday before going home, but after the Oath, it’s a few days of jail time.
Just an example, though plenty of us do forget our gun.