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I can’t believe it’s come to this point. I’ve been putting off writing about this time. Just when I am really starting to feel like I’m fitting in more and am able to deal with all of the army’s problems, it’s coming to an end.

I decided to write this now (while I’m on base), around two weeks before my last days, so that I’ll have a chance to update then as well (out of the army!). I am typing on a tiny iPhone screen so please forgive any spelling and/or grammar mistakes, it’s much harder editing here than on a big shiny laptop screen!

My last post, which was dreadfully long ago, was a bit of a downer and I apologize for that. It was how I felt then though, and thinking back, I still understand why I felt that way. Maybe it’s because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe I’ve put up with enough crap up until now that it just seems normal, or maybe it’s just that the sun has finally started bronzing my pale, winter frozen skin, but I’ve finally begun feeling a little more relaxed in the army.

I know I’m impatient with others and can easily lose my cool so there have been tough times here. Sometimes I could have acted differently, but under the stressful circumstances, I’d say many of my reactions have been plenty justified. Whichever way you want to look at it, I feel much more at ease now than ever (could it be possible it’s all this herbal tea I’ve been drinking recently? [Aunt Jonnie aren't you proud?!?])

As a bit of an update on location and what we’re doing, we finally finished our 3 months of imun (training) and have moved onto guarding the northern border of Israel with Lebanon. Won’t say where exactly, because I’m pretty sure it’s one of those things we’re not totally supposed to disclose, but let’s just say it’s on a mountain and it’s windy and cold at night.

Imun was hard. 6 of the hardest days of my life were included in imun. Our Targad (short for Targil Gdud, Battalion Drill) was lengthened from 4 days to 6, on the day we were supposed to leave. It rained 5 1/2 days of the 6. It snowed one morning. We slept one night (Shabbat). The rest was composed of trudging through mud all night resting every few hours to catch a quick 15 min cat nap. Days and some nights were drills in the field. No sleeping bags, no change of clothes and a 60 lb bag on our backs at all times (not including combat vest and gun). I could write a book about that week, so let’s just leave it at this: I have never, and never want to ever feel like I felt that week again.

Our new base is small and close knit, not like the other places we’ve been. I think this is part of the reason I’m adapting more easily here. I love all but one of the 7 other people in my room here. We’ve really started to get along great the past month and a half; sharing glasses of tea or coffee, fixing our gear together or just plain ironically being equally annoyed at the inequalities present in work loads.

I’ve hated this place for so long and now I feel like I’m going to miss it a lot when I’m done. I could sign on more time, but I know it’s not the right thing to do. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do here, but it still has been an interesting and memorable experience.

I’ll be happy to put down my gun, but I know I’ll miss the pride I’ve had in carrying it.

Posted: May 6, 2012 in Guard Duty, Imun
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A Warrior?

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Imun, Tzanchanim
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Sikat Lochem (Warrior's Pin)

As of yesterday, I’m a Soldier, a Fighter and/or a Warrior. Or at least that’s what the pin on my uniform says. The Sikat Lochem (Lit. Warrior’s/Fighter’s/Soldier’s Pin) is given to soldiers after they complete their “Maslool” or Course. This course encompasses all of basic training, advanced training, sitting on kav (border guard duty) and for us in my unit also some more imun (training). I personally don’t feel any different, nor do I feel any more like a soldier now than I did two days ago. Maybe that’s just my own mind being accustomed to the things we do every day. It’s totally normal for me to go sleep outside for 3 days at a time, shoot a hundred bullets in 20 minutes and run up and down hills all day.

- Am I what I thought I would be over a year ago? That’s a difficult question to answer. I’ve done things I never thought possible (ie. Masa Koomta, our 65 KM hike to get our Beret’s), but then I’ve also done some of the most mundane tasks ever (ie. washing dishes for 15 hours).

- Am I some super soldier running around like Rambo? Definitely not, but I think it’s been a good experience over all, even if there was a lot of stressful times and just plain wasted times…

I only have a few months left, and like I just recently explained to my Mefaked Pluga (Company Commander) in a closed meeting at the beginning of the week, I really don’t have any reason to sign more time. I explained to him that I wasn’t offered any interesting courses to learn more, and I haven’t had a real tafkeed (job) in the army. I’m just a simple soldier (chapash). The Negev machine gun that I had been trained on was eventually given to someone else in my squad and I never got trained on anything else. I explained to him that I wasn’t being treated the way I had been promised and that I was growing tired of the lackadaisical attitude of both the other soldiers and of the mefakdim (commanders).

While in this meeting he kept saying how he understood where I was coming from and that he was upset to hear how I felt and how I was being treated, but meanwhile he repeatedly checked his phone during the conversation. I understand he’s a busy guy (in charge of over 100 soldiers), but if you’re going to try to tell me you care… put down your damn cell phone for 15 minutes. He wanted me to see the big picture he kept repeating, which is the problem… I do see the big picture, and I see that it’s flawed.

I say all this because I feel like I’ve been stuck in a rut and I can’t get out. I just made aliyah and all my mefaked had to say was “great, now get back to base” instead of the “Mazel Tov! Congratulations!!!” I was expecting. Side story: I met a friend at Nefesh B’Nefesh also making aliyah at the same time. I overheard her conversation with her commander in karakal (the unisex combat battalion), and her commander was ecstatic and happy and had no problem with her coming back to base the next morning instead of rushing back that night. So hopefully you can see why I’m a bit down.

Adding to this whole situation while everyone else was taking a month long course for an advanced rocket system, I was in the kitchen and doing guard duty with just 6 other people. Then this past week and next week I’ll be in the field with a different machlakah (platoon) than my own. The reason for this? They don’t have enough people and they need someone who hasn’t taken the course that everyone else did… so basically I’m just getting screwed over again. After this weekend we will be closing 21 days on base, something everyone said would never happen during imun (training). Everyone said we’d be getting out most weekends, and now we’ve been closing most… To add to that, we’ll be in the field every week of these 21 days.

Shetach, The Field. Where we Eat, Sleep, and Walk in the blistering cold.

We've finished training! Now we're allowed to light our tuna on fire to make it taste better!!!

We had one nice day last week – our Tiul Sof Maslool (End of Course trip). We traveled around the Golan Heights a bit to a bunker overlooking Syria and heard some old war tales. And then went on a really nice hike to the river El-Al (yes, like the airline), and finally ended the day with a couple hours at Hamat Gadar, a built up establishment with natural hot sulfur water. As amazingly relaxing as it was at the end of the day, all I could think about was how 202, and 890 (the other battalions) both got 3 day trips… and we got 1 day. Sorry for the pessimism.

View on the way to the river at the bottom

went swimming in that water for about 30 seconds... WOW IT WAS COLD!

I hate to sound like such a depressed “shavooz” person, but that’s where I’m at right now. I’m just trying to get what I have to do done, and carry on. I’ve started drinking more coffee during the day from my nice new Pakal Cafe (coffee kit) I got from NBN which helps quite a bit :)

Seriously... Thank you Nefesh B'Nefesh - this gets me through my day.

As I think about the beer I’m going to drink later tonight I smile and hope that the coming very difficult weeks will pass quickly and without too many stress wrinkles forming on my forehead… A toast from my fraternity in Buffalo which seems fitting for the people around me and the situation I’m in:

Here’s to you, Here’s to me, Friends forever we shall be, But if we ever, Cease to be, F&CK YOU, Here’s to me!!!

Has it really been close to 3 months since I last wrote a blog post?!?!?! Wow, I’m sorry to you (readers) and to myself. As much as this is a help guide to wanna-be lone soldiers, it’s also a chronicle for myself and others about what life is like in the IDF. I update a lot on Facebook (which if you’re a fan, you know is quite a bit), but I also should have been updating more here as well. With blog posts I can go more in detail and make sure my memories aren’t lost!

I’ve been back in Israel and on base for 2 weeks and already a ton has happened (or not happened). I’m home at my kibbutz now alone because my girlfriend was lucky enough to be selected to be a soldier on a Taglit (Birthright) trip. She’s traveling all around Israel for 10 days with a bunch of 20 somethings from the Philadelphia area, being their companion and guide through this holy land. She helps them with their questions and introduces them to Israeli idea’s and things they probably wouldn’t see or hear otherwise, along with answering the dumb question here or there of “HAVE YOU EVER SHOT ANYONE?!?!?!?!”. Contrary to popular belief, no, we soldiers in the IDF do not just walk around shooting people for the fun of it.

So now, where was I before I was sitting at my new computer eating strawberries from the shuk (market) in Tel Aviv? Where was I before two weeks of guard duty on the border of the West Bank? Why I was at home of course! Home in beautiful New York eating lox and cream cheese bagels, amaaaaaazing pizza and having the “occasional” beer or 10.

they're just as good as they look :)

Home was great. Really, I couldn’t have asked for much more. I saw my family and friends, I caught up on sleep, rode my motorcycle a few times, I ate A LOT, partied a bit too much and generally just did all the things I can’t or don’t have time to do here in Israel. There’s not much to explain about being home, you can’t explain the feeling of returning to a place that you’ve known for 23 years after a year of being gone. It’s just that, returning home. Most things are comfortably the same, with a few changes of the local stores. It’s nice that most things don’t change. It’s reassuring that there are things that don’t change every day. Keeps me sane at least.

Returning to Israel a couple days later than I was supposed to due to a screw up on the army’s behalf was a pretty good bonus for once. Apparently they were beginning to think that I had run away, until I showed up and explained what had happened with my plane tickets. Long story short the army sent me to get my plane tickets the day before I was supposed to leave, so obviously there weren’t any tickets left, so the travel agent just added the lost days onto the end. Returning was bittersweet. I liked that I would have something to occupy my time with again, but I missed home the second I was on the plane. It was hard knowing that the next time I would be home would be a minimum of another 6 months or so. All is well now though, I’ve come to peace with finishing up here and doing my duty that I have signed up for. June 15th is the day I’m done, unless they give me some really good reason to sign extra time? an interesting course or something maybe?

For those of you out of the loop, since finishing my training at my original base I’ve been stationed between the Israeli settlement of Tsofim and the Arab city of Qalqilya, Check out the area here on a map. We do various different forms of guard duty there. I can’t go very in depth here, but it ranges from guard duty on base, to patrols and lookout towers on the border of Israel and Qalqiliya which is part of the West Bank. It’s very tiring work and after being on base for 2 weeks all anyone wants to do is go home and sleep. Some shifts go up to 12 hours… and in one location you sleep there for several days on end, taking turns guarding with the other people there. No showers, no change of clothes, and you make your own food there!

Next week I’ll be moving bases again… but that’s for next blog. For now, I will give you a short photo essay to sum up my last month or so. I wish I could post more, but remembering our chats during training – I probably shouldn’t post some pictures that I have in case they got in the wrong hands, and that’s weird that I actually think like that now.

I got to see tons of family including my niece (Helen) and nephew (Sam, pictured here). It was great to see them after such a long time. I think Sam liked my motorcycle as much as I do! P.S. Don't worry mom's around the world, this motorcycle was never moving with him on it!

how I missed unkosher deli sandwiches. sorry but I don't think I can ever give it up!

My grandparents had their 64th anniversary while I was home!

Ben Gurion Airport... Returning to the land.

We built our own army Chanukiah for Chanukah!!! What do you think?

Thought it was a cool looking view while I was guarding...

I know this sorta looks like a Hess truck from the holidays, but it's a real truck the police and soon the army will use here! It's a Ford that's been heavily customized by an Israeli company!

SUFGANIOT!!!! Our Battalion commanders father was kind enough to buy/donate a ton of donuts for all of us during Chanukah... WOW they were good!

Another view from guard duty. Barbed wire isn't always the nicest thing to see, but it's unfortunately needed in a lot of area's around the border. I liked the contrast with the natural surroundings for this picture

A checkpoint near a border to check ID's of Israeli's and Palestinians alike crossing the border. A public area so I felt it ok to show. Many people cross this border every day to go to one side or the other to work.

I recently got an upgrade from my old Vietnam era M16, to a much nicer M4! Very happy about it. Now I fit in with everyone else :)

If you made it to here, Thanks for reading, thanks for looking at my pictures and if you’re a regular, sorry for the long wait for a new post! I hope to post more frequently now that I have my own (new) laptop, and have gotten a little more back into a regular schedule. Hope you’ve enjoyed and make sure to like and share my facebook page, that’s where the most frequent updates are! Till next time, enjoy!

Posted: December 31, 2011 in Guard Duty, Tzanchanim
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JUMP into WAR WEEK!

Posted: October 2, 2011 in Advanced Training, Tzanchanim

In the past month I’ve been to jump school and finished our final week long training session out in the field aptly named  Shavua Milchamah or “War Week”. Let’s just say it’s been a looooong month!

Jump school is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, not that I’ve actually experienced ANYTHING I’ve done in the past year before, but this is different. ::Prepare yourself for a run-on sentence:: – The first week in jump school you never touch foot inside a plane, it’s all about jumping off small platforms practicing how to roll, then bigger platforms (15-20 feet or so) with harnesses to get a feel for jumping from a height , lots of zipping down zip lines to learn how to drop your cargo pack and open your reserve chute if you need it and other things you may want to know before jumping out of a perfectly good plane.

Now that I’ve summed up the first week in an awesomely long run-on sentence, onto a technologically advanced photo slideshow of Week 2 of Jump School:

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In the end I got to do four jumps, two during the day and two at night. Some people only got to do three jumps due to some problems with the Air Force (lazy bastards). Basically we’re supposed to do five jumps to earn our jump wings – so yes you understood that correctly – we have not earned our jump wings! I will need to do another jump in a week or so to earn my shiny jump wings… and yes if you were wondering, we are all very annoyed that we are the only battalion walking around without jump wings for the past two weeks.

The first jump is a jump without anything but our parachute, the rest are with a bag that’s attached to our parachute harnesses. The bag has rapped up securely inside our combat vest and gun. As you can see in the photo in the slideshow, this bag eventually hangs from us on a cord. It starts off attached directly to us and mid air we have to “drop” the bag down there. It’s a pretty simple process but hard to explain without physically showing it.

All I can say about the week is that I will never EVER, EVER, forget the first jump we did. Everyone’s nerves on the flight up, everyone starting to chill out and starting to get excited about jumping and then finally the jump out into the open abyss. The first three to five seconds or so outside of the plane are absolute mayhem; confused and disoriented, being thrown this way and that by a combination of the wind, the plane’s jet stream, and the parachute opening, eventually emerging into the open air bedazzled by the fact that you are over a thousand feet in the air being kept alive by 30 strings and bit of nylon over your head.

The three best moments of all the jumps are as follows:

  1. When the plane takes off and we do an odd ritual chanting of “A- UP, A – UP, A- UP, A- UP” until the plane takes off (no one has any idea the history of it, nor could I find anything online… my guess is as good as yours, I’m guessing it stands for “Airborne Up” and is from when the US taught Israel how to jump).
  2. The moment I described earlier about the first 3-5 seconds of the jump.
  3. landing back on the ground, alive and with all your body parts where they’re supposed to be.

I’d like to write more, but as usual I’m limited on time here so I’m going to continue onto a bit about War Week.

War week is a bit of what it sounds like and bit not. I personally wouldn’t say it’s as crazy as the title sounds, but it is essentially there to give you the feeling of being in a war for a week. Although we’re only supposed to carry around 40% of our body weight for the week, most people end up carrying around 50%. It sounds ridiculous and it really is. It’s not normal. I’d like to say that I’ve started to find myself saying that phrase a lot lately, “This is not normal”.

The time of day doesn’t really matter during war week, might as well not have had a watch for the week. If it’s 4 AM or 4PM you could be doing the same thing. Walking 8 KM’s to the next point that we have to be at, running a drill with the entire pluga (battalion), or maybe catching a 20 minute catnap while you’re waiting for your next orders. Sleep isn’t a normal thing either, either you’re sleeping for a couple hours in the middle of the day with the sun beating down on you or you don’t sleep at all. If you are sleeping, there are other people awake guarding. What are we eating? Manot Krav (combat rations) of course! Tuna, Beans, Corn, Bread, and canned fruit are the basics for the week.

Targilim (training exercises?) are with the entire pluga and so incorporate over a hundred soldiers on the field/hills at once. Some kitot (squads) are laying cover fire, while others are charging up the hill and still others around on the side. Everyone has their job to do and eventually we end up conquering the target. There’s no such thing as losing. Sometimes there are “casualties” that we have to carry back down the hill, but we always win. I guess it’s good that we’re optimistic?

The beginning of the week started with another helicopter ride in a Blackhawk helicopter and later in the week I got to go in a CH-53 Sea Stallion. Let me just say that that helicopter is another “not normal” thing. It’s literally the magic school bus, I was just waiting for Ms. Frizzle to turn around from the pilots seat. The helicopter has seats for around 30 people and in battle can apparently accommodate around 50 people!!! It really is a flying bus!

One of the targilim we did had Merkava III Tanks along side us! Maybe not the newest of the new tanks, but still awesome! I can’t wait to see the Merkava IV – It’s the most advanced tank in the world!

I’m running out of writing steam here and it’s getting close to feeding time (lunch) so I’m gonna have to leave you all off here. Shanah Tovah Ya’ll (as my aunt says), and hope to write you all again soon!

I don’t know what to say… I haven’t written a post in over two months. A LOT has happened, and I feel a little bad about not writing about it. I still constantly update my Facebook page, so be sure to check that out – The Lone Soldier Facebook Page.

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write the blog, it’s more that when I do come home from base (which is less frequently now) I’m so overly exhausted that all I want to do is lay in bed. If I somehow pull the energy out of myself to get up and out, I want to go out and do normal people things. Go to a bar, go to a movie, hang out at the beach etc. Since I have my iPhone it’s much easier for me to write quick updates and send in a few pictures here and there to Facebook. Writing takes thought and time – neither of which I want to use on weekends off.

Since we left last time, here’s a general run down of what’s happened so you can all catch up:

  • We finished tironut (basic training) and have moved onto imun mitkadem (advanced training)
  • my commander that I told you about? The batshit crazy one? yea, he got kicked out. I have many different feeling about it, some good, some bad. I think he was a great commander in that he knows his stuff and is insane in the way that you want someone that’s gotta protect you during a war. He also was WAY too hard on us, considering we were just in basic training. I personally think he would be an amazing commander in the gdud (battalion – referring to working on the line, not at a training base). He is someone I want to command me during war, someone that isn’t going to lose his cool and isn’t going to be scared – he was just a little too tough for training, that’s all.
  • I got a new commander, great guy. After guarding with him at the front gate recently I found out that he speaks nearly perfect English. It’s not that I want to be speaking English with him all the time, but it’s a great relief from my previous commander who hardly understood English at all. I’ve been here 10-11 months, sorry but my Hebrew still isn’t fluent. Sometimes I just HAVE to say something in English, especially when I’m frustrated and can’t remember Hebrew for the life of me. He’s not as “balls to the wall” as my previous commander, but I think he’s a much better (more caring) commander for training. He legitimately cares if we learn our lessons, and what our problems are. He doesn’t mind having a laugh with us either, which helps reduce the constant stress I’ve been feeling.
  • We guarded in STIFLING heat near Ein Gedi (around the Dead Sea). The army treated us and we got to go to the pool at Kibbutz Ein Gedi for an hour!
  • We went to some other base for a week and had “team building” exercises and lots of interesting lessons. It was a nice break from our usual run till you drop schedule. I learned a lot, and think it was great for our machlakah (platoon) to learn more about each other.
  • Our pluga (company) completed one of our first very long masaot (hike/journey). 25+5KM 30% (in layman’s terms: 25 KM, another 5KM with stretchers loaded with sandbags, all while carrying 30% of body weight). This was one of the hardest masaot for me yet. 3 people passed out on the way from any combination of dehydration/overheating/lack of energy. My boot over the past couple weeks has developed a whole in the lining near my heel.  I did my usual of putting on two pairs of socks, and didn’t think twice about it – bad idea. After the first 10KM or so I started getting a blister, another couple KM’s and I had a hole in my foot, and little after that I just kept telling myself my foot was on fire and everything was fine. Needless to say, for a week or so after I had to put gauze and tape on my foot until it healed up. I’ve now learned about a great product: Leukotape! It’s expensive stuff, but it really works to protect your feet in the spots you know you’re going to get blisters… It’s like a second skin.
  • We took a ride on a Black Hawk helicopter!!! Out of all the infantry units, ours is the only one to get to do this, so it was an amazing experience. I can hardly explain to you the weightless feeling when you take off: it’s like when you’re at the very top of a roller-coaster…but not exactly? With swirling clouds of dust and pebbles flying around you, the chopper’s loud and powerful engines launch you off the ground in a matter of seconds. Half a minute later you don’t even recognize where you are, several hundred feet up and far enough away from where you took off that the surroundings are new and mysterious. We only flew for around 5 minutes, but they were some of the most memorable 5 minutes from the whole army so far…After the helicopter ride we did a 5+5KM 40% Masa – I didn’t think it was as hard as our previous Masa, but it still wasn’t easy.

Not the one we went on, but the same make and model...

  •  This past week all we had been doing was guarding and working in the kitchen. It sounds like a break, but it’s really not. It was only our machlakah (platoon) on base, so we had to cover everything ourselves. We were guarding 2-4 (2 hours of guarding, 4 hours off in-between) and alternating working in the kitchen all day. Four hours off isn’t really four hours off… 2 of those hours you’re kita konenut (I’m not positive about this one, but it’s basically a squad of people who are always ready to respond to an emergency on base) which means you can’t take off your uniform (including knee pads and boots). In addition, if you hear the words to respond, you have to be ready with ALL your gear in 1 and a 1/2 minutes. Let me tell you, that’s tons of fun being woken up to for a drill… The other two hours you technically have off, but you’re always going to be sleeping so you never get undressed in the first place. I didn’t shower or take off my clothes for 4 days. I smelled TERRIBLE. You have to be back to guard 20 minutes before the hour and it takes 5 minutes to walk there, so basically it works out that you guard 2 hours, sleep/rest 3 hours – and that’s if there isn’t something planned for you to do in between.

In conclusion, the past two months have been very smelly, very tiring, I’ve learned a lot and experienced a lot of cool things. Since I don’t know when I’ll be updating next, stick to Facebook for the real up-to-date posts. The next 2 months is going to be even harder, so I don’t know what I’ll be able to post about – but just know I’ll be hiking further than most people think is possible, sleeping half as much as a normal person and jumping out of a perfectly good airplane numerous times…

Now this blog was mentioned in an earlier blog post here and I’d like to forewarn that all of it’s contents are completely true. My Commander is Batshit Crazy. Before I start this, remember to check out the tons of new pictures over at The Lone Soldier Flick Page and become a fan on The Lone Soldier Facebook Page!

My commander, who will remain unnamed for the time being, just in case he stumbles upon my blog (even though he doesn’t know a lick of English), would make a wonderful pledge master in a fraternity. He loves to run us to the ground, slam us with pushups, barely feed us and then repeat the procedure over and over again until we’re on the brink of turning our guns on him. He does this all while screaming like I’ve never heard someone scream before (I am truly impressed that he hasn’t gone hoarse even once).

This man or shall I say boy, because I am just about 4 years his elder can really torture people in a way that is difficult to describe. All the things he forces us to do, he somehow makes seem easy as he blasts past us running or effortlessly performs other exercises (only lately have I begun to beat him with pushups [he'll start shaking while I'm still going strong!]). He has a full beard and lightly thinning hair making him look a bit older than I, with a birth mark on his eyeball that truly makes him seem the killing type. At first I had a profound respect for him because everything we did he proved that he could do and many times could do even better. Lately this respect has turned into a bit of a joke to me though.

I’ve begun to realize that you take someone much more seriously when they get angry once in a while rather than being angry and loud all the time which is just what he is. One of the other Mefaked’s (commander) only gets loud once in a while, but you know to take him seriously when he does. My Mefaked screams and yells, and wonders why we continue to screw around. He hasn’t realized that his constant yelling has turned more into a bit of a laughing matter to us all rather than an intimidation factor. I’m looking forward to the day training is over and I can just tell him how batshit crazy he is. The problem is, we still have another 4 months of training, and he can still make us run till we drop in exhaustion.

This week (Thursday through Wednesday) we were sent to do guard duty at one of the bases on the border of the West Bank. We were doing guard duty there every day, each person in different places – some stayed on the base, some went out into field, some near the new fence they were building. On Tuesday I got an extra half day off before Shavuot. I was told it was because I was mitztaien (most excellent) but I really think it was because I was so run down and tired they all felt bad for me. Three other people got off early too, so I can’t really be sure. The past two weeks have been rough.

I came back to the army after 9 days off with my parents, which were fantastic and restful but caused a great shock to my body when I returned. It’s amazing how much a week affects you. I felt rested and good, but I wasn’t ready for what the army had in store for us. I had heard over my mayuchedet (special vacation) that I had received the Negev as my pakal (soldier’s position, such as sharpshooter, light machine gunner or something boring like radio… etc.). The Negev is the Israeli army’s Israeli made light machine gun and it’s supposedly a huge honor to receive as a pakal. It’s automatic firing, takes rambo like belts of bullets and is totally bad-ass. The one draw back is that it’s far from light. In addition to this, my mefaked was one of the ones leading our training on the gun, and he knew I wanted to be a sharpshooter… not a machine gunner (plus I have the best shot in my kita [squad] so I should have gotten it)

RAMBO!

We slept for 5-6 hours a night, being woken up in the middle of it every night for some sort of drills. Our last night we woke up for what soldiers not so eloquently call a “rape session”. At first I thought it was some kind of celebration, we were at the shooting range and there were glow sticks thrown everywhere, techno music blasting through a stereo they had brought and everyone was smiling and laughing. That changed all too soon. For the next 45 minutes or so we sprinted, crawled, rolled on the ground, got into kneeling position, prone position, standing position and performed jamming procedures all while having water thrown on us without any sort of rest. Soaking wet and covered in mud all beyond fatigued we returned to our rooms. And we had to sleep again after this!

After Shavua Negev (Negev week) we learned that we would be going to a base to guard for the next 5 days or so. We all thought it would be a pleasant time, considering most of the time when you guard, you only guard two hours and then have off for most of the day. This was different, and especially for me. I got screwed with my guard hours…badly. I was having guard duty at 7pm, 3am, and 11am. I hardly slept. Then on top of this, the last day of guard duty we went to sleep at 2am, and I was told by my mefaked that I was chosen to go guard where they were building new fences. This meant waking up at 5:30 am. Yep! That’s right, a whole 3 1/2 hours of sleep! The next day we were out for the next 13 hours. I was with another soldier walking around the entire day, in full gear – including the ceramic bullet proof vests we wear. Those are not light vests, not made for walking around in, they’re solely for guard duty.

In full gear in the West Bank

We finished at around 7pm and while waiting for the truck to pick us up to go back to the base, my mefaked decides it’s time for a workout session. Nine sets of 20 pushups and a nice 9 minutes of ab workouts later we finally head back to the base. We meet up with everyone else exhausted beyond belief and learn that we have madas (sport time). Great. At least it was short (2km and some stretching). Finally we slept! The next morning we woke up to madas again?!?!?! This time around though it was with our vests and guns. Great. After about half an hour of running and doing other exercises I could barely stand up and was told to go sit on the side. This rarely happens and was surprised. I was very out of it though so I openly welcomed the couple minutes of rest. I returned and did things as fast as I could but still barely kept up. My Commander(s) are Batshit Crazy.

Tomorrow I return to the army again, my girlfriend doesn’t know that I have this weekend off also :) shhhh don’t tell her! It’s a surprise!

5 months

Posted: June 3, 2011 in Basic Training, Tzanchanim
Tags: , , , ,

Disclaimer!!! I wrote the following a couple weeks ago and never finished the blog. I’m not as angry and annoyed as I was then, but things do still tend to irk me from time to time. I’ve begun to try to accept that this is just the way the army is… Plus I have a working iPhone again which makes me happy, and a great girlfriend to massage my nervous wreck of a self. Without further ado, I present to you all an outdated, unfinished blog entry! Enjoy!

Wow, tomorrow will be 5 months since I started this crazy ride called the Israeli Defense Forces. That means only another 34,186,670 seconds left till I’m out. The reason I’m counting the seconds is because 13 months or a year and a month seems like such a short amount of time. When I started this adventure I didn’t realize that I would be checking every second that goes by. Whether I’m in the army timing EVERYTHING I do because the commander says to, or because it’s on the weekends and I don’t want to waste a second – I’m always checking the tick-tock of the clock.

It’s come to that point in my service where I’ve realized that not everything is perfect in the IDF, very far from it in fact. I won’t go into far reaching details with you now, but I’ve started to become a little cynical due to the broken promises that I’ve grown accustomed to.

Some of the promises are from the IDF, some are from companies, and others are just from people in general. The army promises that Lone Soldiers get out at 6am on Friday’s, I can’t remember the last time I got out before 9am. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but when you have less than 48 hours to get everything you need to get done for the week, it really makes a difference. It especially makes a difference because most of those 48 hours are “shabbat hours”, meaning NOTHING is open or working. When the phone company charges you a ridiculous $183 in a month, and they’re closed on the weekend… it doesn’t really help that you can’t call them to straighten it out. I’m starting to hate shabbat, it’s more of a time of being annoyed that I can’t get anything done, rather than a restful time.

OK, so now that I got my bitching out of the way, I can also say that I just completed one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my entire life this week. The day before we left base we had an 8km masa (Journey/hike). The last kilometer we ran with a stretcher full of sandbags, and for the entire 8kms I went with the pakal mayim (water bag). This bag has 15 liters of water in it and so all together weighs around 40 pounds. Add this 40 pounds to the 25-30 pounds of equipment I already carry (1.5 liters of water, 6 loaded magazines, combat vest, dummy grenade, M16 and other small assorted items) and I’m carrying around 70 pounds of stuff. I’ve lost around 15 pounds in the army so far bringing me down to a skinny (semi-anorexic, as my girlfriend says) 150 pounds (68 kilo’s for you non-poundage people). I was carrying 46% of my body weight!!! what?!?!?!