Masa Ashba

Now we are up to the events of this week! On Sunday night we had our most recent Masa, it was 12 kilometers. 10 kilometers straight up walking fast, with the usual running every few seconds to close the gaps between soldiers, and two kilometers at the end carrying people on stretchers. The army figured we hadn’t had much sleep on Saturday night, and they were guessing right, so we went to bed at 6pm to get up in the middle of the night for the Masa.

This Masa was very special to us, though to be honest, I’d forgotten all about that when they woke us at 1 in the morning. This Masa was to earn the right to our swearing ceremony the coming week. This is probably why, just moments before the Masa began, a man with a camera was there to film us. We sang our Motto for the camera, and then individual soldiers could speak to the camera through the microphone. Also, the Masa Ashba was the first time our entire company did the Masa together rather than broken up into units. I guess the battalion wanted to remember this moment.

The first two or three kilometers my legs hurt, but that subsided, and the rest of the way was painless. I remember when it was tough, I didn’t think about how this was the IDF and I needed to be strong for the group and for Israel. This is my usual go to method. This time, I didn’t come up with that in my mind. Instead, I remembered my parents and how proud I know they are of me. I did the best I could thinking how proud they would be.

So thanks Mom and Dad for giving me the much needed motivation! I barely felt that Masa.

It came with the usual steep ass hills that we could not get through without putting our right hands on the man in front of us and giving a push. We moved forward like a machine, badly oiled but dedicated and committed, again no injuries.
Eventually we had just two kilometers to go, so we opened the stretcher as ordered. The commanders picked who would be “wounded”. And we carried them the rest of the way. The guy on our stretcher fell asleep instantly after laying down on it. It didn’t matter how loudly we yelled in struggle under the weight of the stretcher, the man was out like a light.

The plan was for four people to carry the stretcher at a time, and every two minutes two people would switch. The two in the back would move to the front, while two new people would take the back. The people who were in the front would rest till their turn came up again to take the back of the stretcher. Our commander was proud of us, we worked as a team, and we didn’t buckle under the labor. He even pulled out his cell phone and unabashedly took pictures, maybe even video of some of it.

At the time I was annoyed about that, in retrospect, I should have flashed a peace sign or something.

And then he did more stuff no one could have predicted. I remember a hand tap my shoulder as I hauled the stretcher from the back, I looked behind me, and there was my commander taking the stretcher on his shoulders from mine! That is not an everyday thing, he wanted to get in on the hard work we were doing despite the fact that he was under no obligation to do so nor expected to do so. After all, he already did all this when he was a regular soldier. He did it for no other reason than we were his men.

I remember another point when I was at the front of the stretcher, and we were climbing a particularly steep road, even by our standards for steep. Our commander showed up in front of me, and dangled his hand in front of my eyes, I grabbed it and off he ran in a powerful sprint. He was trying as hard as he could to pull not just me, but the entire group under the stretcher through my hand.

He served only to tire himself out and give up, because that was one EFFING STEEP CLIFF. But what a man that dude is.

After the Masa was over we had a shooting day scheduled, which meant more field. We built a tent, shot lots, ate field rations…this time outside our base. I just couldn’t believe how much work we were doing after a Masa. But I finally realized in the end, sitting here, that a soldier isn’t supposed to feel fresh and rested. I mean its nice if you get to feel that way once in a while, but the whole point of soldiering is to do your job well despite fatigue and blisters.

No matter how psychologically and physically tired/ruined you might be, get up and do your work.

Knowing that makes this all a lot easier for my mind from here on out.

And now, I’m enjoying myself with a long break. On Monday is my unit’s swearing ceremony at the Western Wall. This location is next to the holiest spot on Earth for the Jewish people, and the Western Wall has become the heart of the Jewish people in its own right. In the capital of the Israel, in the heart of the country, and in the heart of the Jewish people, I will once again pledge my loyalty to the State of Israel.

This time, as a full-fledged combat soldier in the ranks of the IDF.

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