Life in Kfir

For the last two weeks, I have been pulling grass from the ground. Shoveling holes, picking garbage out of…well…piles of more garbage, and even bursting a mainline water pipe or two. Basically, I’ve been really putting my college degree in political science to good use. Why? Mostly because not everyone drafts at the same time, some people draft on later days than I did, and some people draft just plain late. In life, there’s always the late comers. Also, there was a gibbush (try out) for guys that want to be recruited into Oketz or Lotar (Kfir’s two special force units), so we continued to post pone until that gets sorted out.

Why didn’t our base just dismiss us for two weeks while all that gets sorted out? Beats me, the army doesn’t use logic. And one just has to get used to that fact. I think I have by now.

I thought about going to the gibbush as well, but I learned more about Oketz and Lotar on my new base, and figured Kfir was actually better for me. Lotar is great, but they spend most of their time teaching other special forces units how to do their job. And I don’t want to spend most of my service as a glorified instructor. And Oketz, basically doesn’t see all that much more action than Kfir, though their work is a little different as they work with dogs. In terms of action Kfir seems like the best choice. There will be another gibbush at the end of the year, if I change my mind.

Life on my new base is not as comfy as it was in Michve Alon. That base could be a four star hotel compared with my new surroundings. To go to the bathroom, or shower, I have to go outside and walk. Imagine waking up at 3am to pee? Imagine if its raining cats and dogs?

The rooms we sleep in are smaller, and there are bunk beds for 6. Though in my room, 7 people sleep (we dragged a cot into the middle of the room for him). The plus side is that next to each of our beds is at least one outlet. We didn’t have this many outlets in Michve Alon, and I gotta say, its really great to be able to charge your phone while you lay in bed “facebooking” and waiting for sleep.

Also, each of our rooms is equipped with a Mazgan (AC, Heater). So we aren’t cold or hot at night. Take it from me, when you serve on the second hottest location on Earth, you really appreciate a working Mazgan.

Friends of mine that went to the Nahal brigade sleep in tents! One of them made sure to let me know I have nothing to complain about as I live in a building with all the commodities I just mentioned. Compared with them, I live like a king. I always tell them that they’re the “real” soldiers, as they are always “in the field” ;)!

The food isn’t as great a variety as back in Michve Alon, but I actually like what they feed us better than I did back at Michve. The food is somehow more what a fighter would eat, and its therefore more filling. For example, at Michve we never ever had cereal, whereas now I can eat cereal in the mornings for some much needed carbs (which is long lasting energy)! We don’t have as much a variety of salad, but we always have Hummus, Tahini (which wasn’t a regular item at Michve), and at least one kind of salad at least for lunch and dinner. Along with the meat comes couscous or rice, which you can usually find in great portions.

All in all, I’m happy. The only thing that constantly gets me (and the other guys in my unit that volunteered) is the Israelis. First of all, they have never once come on time to formation, which is the biggest NO there is in any army. Second of all, once they are in formation, they never stop talking out of line. And they love to whine!

I can only hope that when Tironot (basic training) begins, these problems will quickly be squashed. We will all do so many pushups because of these problems (collective punishment), but at the end of the day, they will shut up to save their arms the hassle. But I’m not holding my breath about them not whining much longer. Right now, most of these guys are not really soldiers but teenagers.

They have only been drafted two weeks ago. They don’t yet know what it means to be a “good soldier” and they don’t yet feel in their bones that the army has no logic and that you must take orders anyway. Don’t get me wrong, these guys should NOT be messed with after about four months. But for now, all I see when I look at them is a bunch of 18 year olds that think they are special. Still, I was in their place three months ago, so I’ll wait.

For now I am part of the Nachshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade. But on Sunday everyone in Kfir will be sent to their permanent battalions. On Monday, we will go to the part of our base where our permanent battalion trains. Therefore, on Monday will begin our training.

I used to be nervous about starting tironot in Kfir, but after all the time picking garbage and digging out grass, I can’t wait for it to start already! Pretty sure I’ll eat these words next week, but for now, PLEASE lets start already!

My new commanders are great. One of them likes to curse, and I can barely keep myself from smiling when I hear him drop the F-bomb while he’s yelling at us. Its just so funny in Hebrew. Actually, my Hebrew is better now that I know some of the naughty words 

My favorite thing about these commanders is that they behave and speak to us like normal people, even like brothers rather than as distanced NCOs.

That’s the opposite of what we had at Michve. In fact, we didn’t even know the names of our commanders at Michve. However, in a combat battalion, you refer to your commander by his job title (commander) and his first name.

They don’t keep things from us. They will tell us long in advance if we will close on the weekend, and if we ask them about something, they will just answer our question as best they can instead of doing their best to keep us in the dark. Again, in Michve we had the opposite of this. My theory is that a combat commander doesn’t feel like he needs to create the illusion of power, as he is confident enough in his own experiences that he need not think about it.

And its totally true, one look at these guys, and you KNOW not to mess with them. They have already done basic and advanced training, plus the commander course (which requires level 09 tironot). Not to mention their share of military operations. So they feel free to joke with us, to form bonds with us, and even to laugh with us. This is also because a commander’s job is to be our best friend, aside from the rest of his duties.

If we have a problem in military or civilian life, we can, and would do best to tell our commander about it. This is something they will tell you on the very first day, right after taking your number and personal information. In the IDF, a soldier will do best to treat his commander like his best friend. The commanders I receive on Monday are going to be my commanders for the rest of my service, so I’m happy that we’ll be close.

But first, toughness and distance. Until training is over, they will NOT be feel like our friends but our commanders.

Funny moment of the week:

I was sitting on the top of a table, while surfing on my phone, during a break. Behind me I could hear the unmistakable sound of the commanding voice of an officer speaking to me “Soldier, what are you doing? Are you going to lay on this table, like a mattress, next?” I turned my head and saw this was a very high up officer, as I didn’t recognize the rank! Not only could I not even speak, my legs shook when I jumped off the table. I then sat down on the bench, as is appropriate.

What happened next? The officer sat down, next to the Russian guy I was talking to. I was even more surprised by the fact that he sat down to stay! The Russian guy and I, continued to speak in Russian. The officer joined in, as it turned out he too was Russian. And it turned out that this officer was who my acquaintance was waiting for that whole time.

Those two were friends for years! So we laughed, we joked, we spoke for a good 5-10 minutes. And then the officer left, and my acquaintance (being a veteran) told me I should not let the army put me in the Duchifat battalion on Monday if they choose to put me there. I asked “why”? And he said, its because that guy is the commander of that entire Battalion, and if I go there, he will put me through a million burning hoops just to re-establish distance with me.

Good thing I asked the army for a different battalion…still you never know. After all, there are people in Kfir that wanted to be somewhere else. Somehow, I feel like everything will be alright.

So whats basic training 05 like? I couldn’t find a documentary on Kfir basic training, but there is one on Golani, and basically we all do the same stuff. So here you go, part 1:

Part 2:

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