Posts Tagged ‘guard duty’

Winding Down

Posted: May 6, 2012 in Guard Duty, Imun
Tags: , , , ,

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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.

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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!

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!

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!

It’s been two weeks on base. It’s Saturday night at 9pm. I have to wake up at 6am tomorrow. I don’t want to write this blog.

That being said, here goes an extremely quick recount of the past two weeks that hopefully I will be able to elaborate upon next week. If I don’t have time… sorry, it’s just one of those things that will be stuck in my memory for me to enjoy reminiscing about.

Again, that being said, my headphones are lost and/or stolen. I annoyed everyone for the whole week about it. Sorry tzevet chamesh (unit 5), I just really don’t like losing things. We did shmeera (guard duty) for the first time, it’s not half bad. If you do it with someone else you get to talk to them for 2 hours, if you do it by yourself, you get to talk to yourself for 2 hours…

We’ve all, especially me, begun to get fed up with our mefakdot (commanders). They’re 18-19 year old little girls. They seriously don’t know how to do their jobs half the time, plus we’ve realized that they have very little power over us unless we do something really bad. If we do something dumb, it’s just pushups or running – which at this point I need to do anyway (dad, if  you’re reading this, I just fixed “anyways” to “anyway” – thanks for always yelling at me for that!) to workout for my gibbush (tryout) for tzanchaneem (paratroopers). Gibbush Tzanchaneem is 8 days away and I’m excited and a little nervous about it. Until then I’m working out and continuing the stupidity that Mikveh Alon has turned into.

Buffoons

Since we’ve gotten bored of everything we tediously do throughout the day we find little things to jazz up the place. Two weeks ago it was us leading up to “ehser shniot” (10 seconds) by yelling “eeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhHHHHHSER shneeoht”. Now this past week I made up “EXTREME SHNEEOHT!”. Twenty Seconds in Hebrew is “Esreem sneeoht”, so it was obviously the next logical step of buffoonery for us to take. We got yelled at by our Somelet (platoon leader) for both of them… onto find out the next thing to annoy them with…

We went to Jerusalem – it was cool. I could write a lot about it, but I’m not going to now. We went on two “Masoht” (journeys/hikes). I’m also not going to write about those.

The Kotel

Top of Mount Arbel... Our second Masa

We have a test coming up this week to determine our level of Hebrew. Great idea for the army to test us after we haven’t had classes for about a week right? I thought so. Dumbasses. Everyone I spoke to about Mikveh said this time would come, and I’m saying it now, I’m not very happy with Mikveh Alon at this point. It’s like second semester senior year, I just want out and I don’t care how I act anymore.

It’s not all bad though, Mikveh Alon is almost over. Soon I’ll be in the “real” army getting my ass beat by my real commanders. Oddly enough that isn’t supposed to be sarcastic, I really am looking forward to the real army. I’ve got a girl by my side, a great adopted family and everything in Israel is at it’s greenest. Life is good, but nevertheless, fuck you Mikveh Alon.

There are a TON of new pics from the past two weeks, so check them out on the Lone Soldier Flickr Page. Pictures will have to tell the thousands of words I didn’t feel like typing this week. The Lone Soldier Facebook Page always tells the quick anecdotes I don’t have time for here, so become a fan over there!

p.s. Hebrew word of the day: מדהים – Madheem – (Awesome!)

p.s.s. I just looked back at my Flickr pictures and realized how much I did in the past two weeks…