I assumed we were going to base for a nice shower and Shabbat. But no, we were quickly stopped at another location where we were ordered to get out.
The rest of that Friday was spent in another field, with less thorns but no grass and all sand. We put up giant tents, I even found myself taking the lead on many of these. One of our company commanders saw my diligent work and sent me to help put up tents where he felt they needed the guidance. I ran off wishing out loud “If only my dad could see me now”. In the family he is the handy man, and this trait skipped me over.
Once all the work was done, including the giant tent that served as our Synagogue for Shabbat services, I went off to do what brings such peace to my mind. I exited the line that surrounded our camp, the Eiruv line that surrounded us (for religious soldiers to be able to carry items in the camp, which would otherwise be forbidden on the Sabbath), and found a nice spot where I could fertilize the soil. Sadly, this was a spot I wasn’t the only one to find, there were other soldiers there doing their business or changing their uniforms.
On top of that, a Bedouin man leading 50 or so cows was passing us by. He didn’t seem to mind us, other than the laughter we could hear from him.
All I could see was burgers following him. How I longed for some steak…
I too finally changed my uniform that day. Taking off my boots was ten times better than when I took off my helmet. Six days of having your boots on do nothing good for your feet. They hurt all that day, and I resolved not to be in my boots all of the Sabbath. The medic I complained to didn’t sympathize much with me about my aches, he simply said lots of soldiers deal with this perfectly normal side of soldiering.
Once the Sabbath was over, we took everything down except our own sleeping tents. In the morning, most of us were sent off to run, I have no idea how far it was only that it wasn’t easy. While the others took down the rest of our tents. When we came back ,we were ordered to clean up the site, including the bathroom site.
That’s right, we cleaned up after ourselves at our bathroom site. And we were not too happy about it. Then, after washing our hands thoroughly with soap, we were ordered to take all of our stuff and walk to the next place. This time we had an additional bag to carry, one which we received for the Sabbath with all the clothes and items we felt we’d need for the following week.
The walk was probably just a kilometer, maybe a kilometer and a half, but with all the equipment on us this was very difficult. I tried to pick up morale by lifting up my gun across my chest, the way its supposed to be held when you wear your combat vest (which we were wearing). I hoped people would look and emulate me, despite the weight, to say its all in their head and look like a soldier while hauling ass.
Then, I could hear behind me a chant was brewing. It was started by an American volunteer like me, who picked up morale with some improvisation. He would say a line, and we would repeat it. Then he would say the next line, and so forth.
“Everywhere we Goooo…
“People want to knooooow…”
“Who we arrrrrrre…”
“So we tell themmmmm…”
“We are Laaaavi!”
“The mighty mighty Laaaaavi”
“And if they can’t heaaaar usssss…”
“We shout a little louderrrrr”
Then he’d start all over again.
It was done to the same tune as this scene from “Remember the Titans”:
In the IDF, we don’t really have anything like a good ol Marine Corps marching song. So this was a particularly American contribution to our Israeli comrades. Our NCOs didn’t stop us, they were too busy smiling about it. Our Sargent got a real kick out of it.
We spent the next three days in that field, practicing maneuvers for conquering a hill or attacking an enemy in general. It was quite a long time since we’d eaten normal food, or had a shower. One of our commanders in the company asked me if I was dying to get home yet. But at this point, I lost all my attachments and replied simply that I was already home. The commander nodded, and confirmed my response.
This is where soldier’s live.
During the exercises, we didn’t use blanks or shout “fire fire”, we used live rounds. This led to moments of great danger, like the time someone was firing in the dark too low to the ground. The commander nearby stopped the whole thing to reprimand the soldier for shooting into the ground ahead.
The soldier of course, didn’t realize he was shooting low (this was a hill and he was moving upwards on it). Things like this can cause a ricochet to injure someone in the leg.
Still, everything went without a hitch. And this is despite the fact that we slept just across the street from a Bedouin settlement. The Bedouin are known for their desire to steal army equipment to sell (at the very least) on the black market.
We practiced this in pairs, and it was difficult for lone soldiers from abroad to remember the carefully scripted dialogue involved. I figured it out pretty quickly when I realized the logic behind the commands. That is, why specifically one command came before another one, etc. I actually found a handle on it quicker than most of the Israelis in my unit.
A typical exercise would go like this:
Two soldiers are laying on the ground, when the leader of the two either shouts that he sees enemies ahead or that they are already under attack by enemies.
Soldier Y: Four terrorists, 25 meters ahead. Two in X’s line of sight, and two in Y’s line of sight.
Soldier X: Repeats the details.
Soldier Y: Soldier X, prepare to move in turns, I’m moving!
Soldier X: Soldier Y is moving!
Soldier Y: I’ve moved!
Soldier X: I’m moving! (And stops at the same distance as soldier Y)
Soldier Y: Soldier X, ready your grenade before our attack!
Soldier X: (fumbles for a rock) Grenade ready!
Soldier Y: Throw the grenade!
Soldier X: *Throws*
Soldier Y: Open Fire!!!!!!
Boom boom, boom boom! I purposely didn’t wear my ear plugs for this, the sound of a fired weapon in an open field is so much more pleasant than in a shooting range where the echoes kill your hearing.
Soldier Y: Atttttaaaaccccckkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!
Both charge in line with each other, guns blazing!
Soldier Y: Get down behind cover!
Everyone gets down.
Soldier Y: X, look behind us, status report!
Soldier X: I see four dead terrorists, two in X’s line of sight and two in Y’s.
Soldier Y: Status report on our health, I’m not injured, plenty of ammo.
Soldier X: repeats what he heard, and replies similarly.
This is one of many scenarios. They can happen differently. Maybe instead of us seeing the enemy first, they attack us from the beginning. In which case, everything happens with a lot more shooting and covering fire. In this case, maybe there needs to be a round of changing magazines especially before the big attack.
Maybe one of us is actually wounded, and the other needs to carry him somewhere else.
If a mistake is made, our commander would choose someone to be wounded after its all over and the other would have to carry him. For example, maybe
Y forgot to cover fire while X was running forward. Maybe X forgot to cover fire while Y was changing magazines. Maybe x provided cover fire while Y was running ahead of him, allowing for possible friendly fire.
For any of this, our commander would decide who is wounded and whom would carry whom.
It was fun. At one point I had the nagging desire to shout, as the leader:
“Holy crap, 48 terrorists in everyone’s line of sight! X what do you do!? What do we do!? I want to be X! I want to be X!”
But I fought that desire.
So, yeah, we did that for three days. Also there was Krav Maga. And the fur of an eaten goat was laying around wherever I went…no idea what ate it, but I was jealous.