Archive for the ‘Tzanchanim’ Category

It’s been another 2 weeks on base and the last week felt especially long, although technically being shorter, which clearly needs some explaining. I was stuck in a field with 4-5 hours to sleep each night and nothing to eat but manot krav (combat rations). The food IMHO really isn’t all that bad, you get several cans of tuna, a can of tuna salad, corn, beans, canned fruit, some random orange stuff which I still don’t know what it is, ketchup, mustard, jelly, chocolate spread and bread. The problem for me was the amount of time given to eat… First off you have 12 or so ravenous guys trying to grab anything they can get their grimy hands on, secondly you have to open half the cans (the other half have pull tabs, why they all don’t have this is beyond me!), thirdly we had to have 4 guys guarding while we were  eating so you need to switch on an off eating, and finally, fourthly if you’re me and everyone in my Kita (squad), you get less time than everyone else to eat. Most other Kitot (squads) got 15-20 minutes to eat. We would only get between 10-15 minutes because my mefaked is psychotic and thinks we’re in a special forces unit, but more on that in a later specialized blog post called “My Commander is Batshit Crazy”.

Field week was interesting to say the very least. I have barely any skin left on the heels of my feet because I was wearing boots for 4 1/2 days straight. I took them off once to change my socks half way though. It’s an weird  feeling not changing your socks… slowly but surely your sweat builds up into a sort of natural slimy lubricant for your feet. As disgusting as this sounds, it probably is some form of human evolution to sweat a lot from your feet when walking long distances – but I digress. We would walk/march/jog for half an hour or so and then “rest” during our lessons that we had. The lessons (at least the parts I understood) were about different formations and bunkers you can build in the wilderness. The formations part was pretty cool, and was easy for me to pick up considering it had nothing to do with Hebrew proficiency. Having been in the marching band in high school (no, it was nothing like Drumline), I felt like my good ole snare drum had been replaced by a M16A1 and I was in the army! oh shit almost forgot about that last part…

The first night we got to sleep in a tent! How exciting, a nice, cozy tent…with holes everywhere. It was a bit chilly at night considering we didn’t have sleeping bags and were just sleeping in our uniforms with our combat vests as pillows… oh what’s that? a nice soft magazine full of bullets for a head rest? oh joy! We did get one scratchy wool blanket to share between two people so that was nice spooning with my partner Tal for the night. I’d say we slept about 30 minutes before getting woken up by gunshots (blanks) and screaming everywhere. We had to get up, put on our vests and have a simulated gunfight outside. Then it was time to sleep another 2 hours or so before I had to guard for 20 minutes. Another 2 hours later and I was up for the day. A whole day of drills and marching, and crawling later we arrived at our second location for sleeping.

hiking... (we have some girl that takes pictures sometimes now, which is great for me!)

The second night we slept on the side of a hill. Quite literally we carried our packs up a hill, stopped in a random spot and our commander said go to sleep. I had the first guarding shift of the night and was straining to keep my heavy eyelids open. Finally I got to lay down and sleep. Waking up to the sun in my eyes and ants crawling on me I realized I was officially in field week. The days were all the same: march here, crawl there, listen to this, eat this really fast. Let’s just say the only times we stopped moving was when we got new orders or had a lesson to learn. This particular day we got to build an “emdah esh” (roughly translated as a “firing bunker”). It’s basically a bunker you dig out that’s used as a firing position. It’s dug down deep enough so that you can’t be hit by incoming fire, and has large rocks surrounding the outside where in a few spots you can aim your gun out and fire if needed. My “chulia” (literally “link”, but really translates as squad “sub-division”) of 6 guys built one big enough for all of us to be in. It took over an hour of digging, carrying rocks and uprooting plants to be used as camouflage. It was the most fun I had all day!

The third night we slept in our bunkers that we had made during the day and also had to guard throughout the night. I had a half hour shift on the radio which was actually quite fun because we got our commanders night vision goggles which I played with for almost the entire half hour. I really want a pair. I also had to “guard” for an hour in the bunker – that was a joke, as soon as I started guarding I passed out. Luckily I had set an alarm for the next person. After talking to everyone else the next day, apparently everyone slept during our guard sessions, it was impossible not to. The following morning we did a lot of the same again, but in the afternoon there was a crazy heat wave and they wouldn’t let us do anything for nearly an hour and a half. That was a GREAT nap time. P.S. just to show how hot it was these days, a couple kids got sick and one kid went into shock from being so dehydrated. Late in the afternoon we built something of a “surveillance point” – I don’t remember the name in Hebrew. Lots of bushes for camouflage, not as deep as the firing pit, and covered by a mesh screen so you can see out but people have a difficult time seeing in. Again, pretty cool stuff – that is until we abandoned our point because a snake was in it.

The fourth night was our “Layla Lavan” or “White Night”. It’s basically a sleepless night of marching and testing. We marched all over the wilderness stopping at different points and being tested on all the things we learned the last several days. We had things like a simulated ambush across a road, information gathering, lost personnel, firing formations, first aid testing, crawling, and basically just tons of walking up and down hills all night. The last thing we did was have a 1KM race against all the other squads back to base. The catch is that we were carrying a stretcher with one of our guys on it. A few minute later and gasping for air we arrived back on base for the first time in 4 1/2 days.

We were told that we had an hour of free time to shower and whatever we need to do. About 20 minutes later though (and after some people had showered already) they were screaming for everyone to be back and ready in uniform with vest on. We went for a short walk/jog of around 1-1.5 KM and then did pushups, situps and sprints for around half an hour. After this we were told to polish our shoes and be outside in formation. An extremely long speech from our brigade’s commander later of which I paid zero attention to because I was putting all my effort into not falling over from exhaustion we were handed our first bit of army pride for our dog tags:

holder for my dog tags 🙂

In my free time I’ve been sleeping, eating, drinking beer, getting annoyed with my “adopted parents” here in Israel, being with my girlfriend and sleeping more. I’ve also been looking for a new iPhone so I can be a bit more connected while I’m on base and possibly start trading some stocks again? Not sure if that’s a terrible idea or not, but I figure I have time to make a trade a day and could maybe make a little cash on the side of the measly pocket money the army is giving me. Also I’m uploading new music to one of my old ventures again over at Seen At The Scene, so check that out if you like new music (mostly club/dubstep/electro stuff). Tonight I’m going to Supersal (a big supermarket here) to spend my 120 shekels (40 bucks or so) that the army gives me every month to buy whatever the hell I want. I’m also gonna go see “Thor” in theatres. Just trying to be a normal person here! Peace out from the Middle East.

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Passover.

Posted: April 26, 2011 in Basic Training, Tzanchanim
Tags: , , ,

All you Jews out there should know that it was just Passover. Hope you all had wonderful, delicious, family and friend filled seders! To honor such, I will be “passing over” this blog. I had time off from the army and very much enjoyed it! I’m closing the base next weekend so I won’t be able to update then, and the week after that I have Field Week. Basically I’m gonna be living in dirt, eating manot krav (combat rations) and hating my life for week! yay! See you guys in 2 weeks!

Ok, Ok, I know it’s been a while since I’ve given an update. If you hadn’t heard I got into the 101st Pluga (company), not the 202nd like I thought I would be going. The only thing I’m a little disappointed about is that now I won’t have the possibility of going to sniper school (apparently only 202 is getting snipers this draft). I still have the possibility of being a Kala (sharpshooter) and I’ve been doing pretty well in target practice so we’ll see what happens…
We’ve learned a lot these past couple weeks and I’m really starting to get into the groove of basic training. I’m sure it’s only going to get harder and more intensive but here’s a bit of a run down of what we’ve been up to lately (keep in mind all of these include lots of classroom lessons before hand):
  • first aid including tourniquet’s, bandages, rescue breathing etc. We all did a basic course for field first aid, basically if someone’s shot or injured how to care for them before a medic shows up.
  • We had a barour. A barour is a basic physical test. nothing special, running, situps, pushups.
  • gas tent full of tear gas. Below is an image of me wearing a gas mask, the thing about this exercise is that they make you run around and do pushups before you run into the tent so you’re breathing heavily. It’s harder to breath in the gas mask and when you’re inside the tent you only run and do more pushups, eventually they tell you to take off your gas masks. Your body forces you to take a gigantic breath as soon as you take off your mask and you instantly realize how terrible of an idea that was… The burning in your lungs is sensational and soon after you realize that your eyes are on fire and tearing at the same time. 15-20 seconds later they tell you to run out of the tent into the open air. Slowly the burning and tingling fades away over the course of 5-10 minutes, but I definitely know now how that stuff disperses a whole crowd of people so quickly… a weird part of me wants to try it again!
  • dont mess with me.

    the tent full of tear gas

  • Target shooting with iron sights and reflex scope. We’ve certainly been putting in the hours at the shooting ranges. Haven’t been shooting a ton of bullets yet, but we’ve calibrated our guns and began doing some training (speed shooting and night shooting so far). Iron sights are ok to shoot with but the reflex scope that we have is awesome. The scopes are made by an Israeli company and the dot stays on target no matter where you move your head! Very cool stuff, it has a radioactive element in it so it works day and night without batteries!

    one of the shooting ranges

  • We threw a grenade. Honestly wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be… it was pretty much just like throwing a baseball and then hearing loud boom. You can’t watch it blow up because you have to duck down behind a protective barrier before hand. I know it’s all about safety, but everyone wants to see the boom, not just the consequences!

    Saw a blackhawk fly overhead while we were in the field!

    That’s pretty much what we’ve been up to, we also had a bunch of running, 2 Masaot (hike/journey), and as of this week guard duty and kitchen duty (fun!). I’d like to throw out a quick thank you to anyone who donates money to the IDF, Friends of the IDF, and/or any other programs. The Lone Soldiers on base got some cool and helpful gifts these past two weeks! Keep up to date with the news, some interesting things have been happening lately with the Iron Dome project functionally working. If you’ve emailed me lately, I apologize for not getting back to you, haven’t had much time lately… I will get back to you though! For the most frequent updates get at me on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLoneSoldier

    Kitchen Fun!

Dear Kids in the USA,

I know you’re not really “kids” but it seemed like a good title so it’s staying. For those of you who are confused, this is an open and public letter to the young ladies and gents at Solomon Schechter Westchester. This letter has been a long time coming, but if you read my blog regularly you should know that I’m a pretty busy guy. This weekend alone I went to a wedding, a bar mitzvah, shopping at the supermarket and mall, spoke on skype with my parents and two friends, watched a movie AND wrote this blog. I’d like to take a second to congratulate myself on spending my time wisely. Congratulations! ::pats self on back::

I would normally use this time to write about what I did in the army this week, but it can be summed up in a sentence or two so I’ll do that now before my letter starts. We re-learned everything we learned at Mikveh Alon. We wasted some time. And then we learned more. All week long we had lessons on guns, hand grenades, bullets, doctors, dentists, ranks of commanders etc. etc. I could write a lot about it, but that would take away from what I’m really here for now; also it’s probably not that interesting unless you’re there in person.

My good friend from school teaches Hebrew at Solomon Schechter and will apparently be following my footsteps and joining the IDF soon?!?! That’s another story for possibly another time. Besides that though, he was in Israel with his class and visiting friends around a month ago. He brought me letters from all his students in class. So finally without further ado, here begins my actual letter:

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to all of you for the letters! It really means a lot to me to receive personalized letters from people in the states who truly appreciate what I’m doing. It makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile and reminds me after a hard week of why I’m here. You are all amazing! It seems that some of you know more Hebrew than I do at this point… maybe you can give me lessons?

I think it’s great that your growing up learning Hebrew in the States and learning at a school like Solomon Schechter. I say in all honesty that I wish I had gone to a school like yours when I was younger. I can’t complain too much because the public schools in my area are great and I learned a lot there. But even with going to Hebrew School I didn’t get nearly as much education as you all will be. Please don’t take it for granted! Learn as much as you can while you’re there, you never know what you’ll want to do in the future!

And here’s a quick rant for all of you – I don’t know what they tell you about Israel in school, but don’t listen to just one person’s opinions. Read the news, and I don’t mean one website, get the whole story. Read the NY Times, Read BBC, Read CNN, Read HaAretz, Read the Jerusalem Post and so on and so forth. They all report, but they all have their biases. Love Israel, but know the facts. Don’t hate Palestinians, hate terrorists. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is black and white. I’m not here because I’m a diehard zionist, I’m here for dozens of reasons that are spread all throughout this blog and will continue to unfold in the future. Sorry if I went on a tangent that you didn’t like, but I thought I should put that out there.

Hopefully some of you will be back in Israel at some point and I can show you around, I’ll be here for a little longer 😉

Love to all the USA,
Me.

I got into the 101st Airborne!!!

What can I say, I’m a certified skirt wearing Tzanchan (paratrooper) now… well at least I will be in 8 months from now.  I’ve just done the equivalent of going from being a senior in high school to being a lowly freshman in college. The last week or so of being at Mikveh Alon was great, we all had “broken distance” with our Mefakdot, meaning we learned their names and some details of their normal lives. They also stopped being giant bitches 24/7, so that kinda made them bearable. We were on top of the world, newbies were coming into the base that we got to laugh at their misfortunes while we walked around hardly doing anything. That was then… this is now.

Now we’re at the Tzanchanim base, we’re the scum of the earth. The people without red koomtas (berets), without wings, without anything but our girly looking skirts having proved nothing yet. For those of you that don’t know, Tzanchanim, the paratroopers, wear a “tunic” which everyone refers to as a skirt. It has something to do with the british S.A.S. blah blah blah. I wasn’t really paying attention when someone was telling me, because I was just thinking if I looked pretty in a skirt or not.

tzanchanim skirt ehmmm, tunic... (yerkit in hebrew)

This first week at Tzanchanim was an experience to say the least. We, the Mikveh Alon group, had been on the base the week prior to learn some random stuff about the army that they thought was important for us to know instead of having the week off. Some of it was interesting, but I really would have much more appreciated the week off to do nothing. Basically, as you can tell, I never even wrote a blog last week – that’s how much I cared for that week. While most people’s first week at Tzanchanim was dominated by working around the base picking weeds and other manual labor jobs fit for scum, I was at another gibbush.

“ANOTHER GIBBUSH!??! I read about the hell you went through the first time, why would you do it again?” That’s what you just asked me right? – OK, well if you didn’t ask, you should have, because I’m about to give you the answer. This gibbush was for the sayerot (special forces) units of Tzanchanim. The units are the following – Maglan, Duvdevan, as well as the “Gadsar” units, Palsar (reconnaissance), Palchan (demolitions) and Orev (anti-tank). They all do they’re own special things which you can read more about on your time (it really is intriguing stuff once you get into it).

To make this a shorter blog entry, read the previous blog about the first gibbush, then multiply it 12.5 fold. This gibbush was 50 straight hours, not 4. The entire first day was crawling. I make no exaggerations – other than half an hour of wind sprints in the beginning of the day, we crawled. We crawled straight, we crawled in circles, we crawled up hill, we crawled down hill. We crawled all day… I must admit that I’m actually misleading you a little bit, we did have “breaks”, 5-10 minute ones every hour or so… during which we had to piss and drink our full meemiah (canteen), which is about 3/4 of a liter then run and refill it at the water truck that was parked a good 5 minutes away. Oh what’s that you say? That’s not enough time to drink, piss and refill up the canteen? Of course it’s not, that’s the point. When we got back, obviously late, we had to do push-ups because we were late.

The whole time during the gibbush we were eating the same thing we ate in the shetach at Mikveh Alon, Manot Krav (combat rations), which included bread, canned tuna, corn, beans, pineapple and a little brick of halava to split between 8 or so ravenous guys. I don’t know about you guys, but that churns my stomach a little bit. I won’t lie, I may have had some skidmarks by the end of the gibbush…

After a “pleasant” night sleep (which included getting up twice in the night to do 15 minute guard duty rotations) in a two man tent on the dirt ground, the second day of the gibbush was a little different. We ran up and down hills for the whole first half of the day. Up and down… up and down… up and down. The Mefaked (commander) doesn’t say do this 5 times, he just says “do this”. It’s up to you to do it as fast as you can, as many times as you can until he says stop. This is how they judge you, they want to see your motivation to push yourself. Then after an hour or so they’ll switch up the path that you need to run, usually by making it longer and harder. Oh, haha, I forgot a key element. You’re running with a 10 kg sandbag on your neck/back.

Sometime after the running we started doing a Masa (hike/journey) with aloomkot (stretchers) The stretchers all have 7 sandbags on them, that’s 70 kilo’s, plus the weight of the stretcher, split between 4 guys. Let me tell you that 20 kg’s is not fun to run with at full speed on your collar bone. The second half of the day started off with… you guessed it. Crawling – again. I actually thought the first day was all the crawling we were going to do, obviously I was wrong to assume that. After some more crawling we did mind games! Finally a physical relief. We had to give directions from a map that they had given us the first day. We were to have memorized it in our non-existent free time. I managed to memorize mine while we were doing our hikes, killed it. We did some “game” of trying to tie a not with a rope without letting go of our partners hands (hard to explain without a picture), we did a “rocket defense” game by giving directions to others in the field that were blindfolded. All in all very cool stuff I thought. Later on at night we slept on the concrete floor of the shooting range nearby, since I think they felt bad for us that it was pouring rain at this point. Again, guard duty rotations at night.

The 3rd morning we had one last thing left to do for the gibbush. We had another map test. This time we were given a satellite image of the base and had to walk with the mefaked to find locations on the base using just the map – wooh boy scouts, I killed this one too. After taking down our tents and having one last delicious manot krav meal, we went back onto the base. Here we waited for our interviews and our doctors visits (to make sure we weren’t dead or dying). The interview was to be with 5-6 reservists, probably aged around 30.

My interview went a little like this (but all in hebrew [p.s. they had a form I had filled out the night before]):

Mefaked: so it says here that you don’t want sayeret, why did you do the gibbush?

me: ummm, It was fun, it was a test for my mind and body… not a test for the army.

mefaked: so why don’t you want sayeret?

me: I would have to do 3 years, right now I’m in Machal and only have to do 1 1/2 years.

mefaked: ok, we understand. So what do you want to do in Tzanchanim?

me: I want to go to pluga (battalion) 202

mefaked: ok, if you want to go there, then you will go there. Good luck! See you later!

me: thank you so much (shook all their hands)… thanks again, good day.

 

All in all, I really think I would have made it into sayeret if I had wanted it. I was never last (actually I was right in the middle and very consistent with my physical tests and killed the mental parts)

I’m happy I tested myself. I had fun. I didn’t have to clean the base like everyone else. I’m proud of myself. End of Story.

During the gibbush we all talked about what we'd rather be eating. I said I wanted a steak. I was lucky enough this weekend to go for a BBQ picnic with my girlfriend and family at Mt. Carmel park. If love was in food form... this would be it.