Archive for the ‘Advanced Training’ Category

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!

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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…