I have had a really great week, which is saying something, since it was my first week of basic training. On Monday, we all sat in the basketball court and they started reading out the list of which unit we will be in for our army service. As I said in the last blog, I requested to be in Gdud (Battalion) 101, which is one of three battalions in Tzanchanim, excluding the special forces. http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/units/forces/ground/infantry/paratroopers/Structure/default.htm. They read out my name and I was ecstatic to find out that I was placed in 101. I think that since I finished the gibush for special forces but still asked to be in a regular 'gdud' (battalion), they gave me my first choice. Within Gdud 101, there are three 'mahlakot' (platoon) and, within each platoon, there are three 'kitot' (classes). I am in "Class Bet, Platoon 1, Battalion 101". So, in my class, there are ten guys and we have a personal 'mefaked' (commander), as does every class. Then, there is a commander officer and, higher up, the official commander of the platoon. Following this, there is the commander and deputy-commander of the whole battalion, as well as the commander of the all the battalions. Also, don't forget the two deputy-commanders and official commander of logistics for our battalion. What I am trying to explain is how confusing and intricate the army is, and this is just for one battalion in the paratroopers' brigade, a tiny part of the massive machine that is the army. Moreover, it means a lot of saluting (and every time I salute someone, I still find it funny, like something out of the British army in World War One!).
The 'giyus' (draft) to Tzanchani-m from my program.
So now I am settled in my 'kita' (class) with the nine other guys who I will be with for the next eight months - both basic and advanced training - at least. As someone once told me, it doesnt matter where you are in the army, what makes one's service memorable, is the people you're with. I can truly confirm this, as the reason for why I have enjoyed the army so far has been because of the boys I am with and the jokes that we have had so far. Already, I feel close to these mix of Israeli guys and I get a lot of attention from them, being the 'English one'. They all are really patient with me and try and help me with the language. It's not like they sympathise me, instead I am part of the group and have managed to show my father-inherited-English-dry-sense-of-humour to them in Hebrew. I can already see how friends from the army become friends for life, and I even can't wait to carry on from where we left off when I go back on Sunday. Our 'mefaked' (commander) is an absolute cutie, being 19, and has been constantly checking up on me, albeit between the times when he is shouting at us to stand in line or clean the room. The other higher-up commanders also seem to know me already, in fact, it seems that everyone in 101 seems to know 'Sam'.
There were points this week where I missed parents and friends but those moments were rare. I realise that there will be both ups and downs coming up in the next three years, but right now, I am absolutely loving it; being with my class, learning and doing interesting stuff and just being a soldier in the IDF (the lifelong dream has become reality). This week has been filled mainly with lessons and introductory talks by the doctor and dentist etc. During these talks, nearly everyone falls asleep, causing the commanders to shout at us and make us stand, or jump up and down or do press-ups. The reason for everyone desperately trying to keep their eyes open is because the army lifestyle (and basic training, in particular) is the most tiring experience due to the endlessly long days. There is morning inspection at 6, which means waking at 5.30 to get ready; organising your locker, cleaning the room and getting dressed, which is a whole mission in itself. The day is filled with lessons and physical activities, with breaks only after mealtimes. Then there is the 'sha'a tash' (hour of free time) directly before bed. An hour is not nearly enough time to shower, shave (which luckily for me I only have to do once a week!!!), speak to parents and friends on the phone, polish boots and organise all your stuff for the next day. The army has to legally give you at least seven hours sleep, so they give you seven hours sleep, however, the seven hours are normally interrupted by the mandatory guard duty, which lasts 20 minutes a night.
Arriving back home week.
This week also contained something else rather exciting... receiving and shooting our guns!!! That's right, after two days of basic training, we were presented with our own gun, which we will keep and use for the rest of the service. My gun is a short M16, and since receiving it, have had it with me at all times, including sleeping with it under my mattress (not entirely comfortable!). The gun must be with me at all times, except in the bathroom, when you can leave it in the room with someone else guarding it, or when you place it in the 'neshekia' (weapon storage). After learning about the 'neshek' (weapon) for a couple of days, we were finally allowed to use it on Thursday. Surprisingly, following my disgraceful performance at Gadna where I got one bullet on target, I shot the best in my whole class! We shot six bullets and although mine were not that near to the target, they were are located near each other (which apparantly is more important). The distance between the two furthest bullets was 2.5cm (considered very good) after shooting at a distance of 25m. Despite not being the type of person who gets excited by guns, the moment when I was given my gun and shot with it for the first time, I felt the adrenaline and some sort of unusual bond with it (by the way, I have yet to name my weapon, so am open for any suggestions).
Next week basic training continues. I am excited to return to the modern and relatively comfortable base, and be with my new friends. I am not too sure what is planned for this week, but I do know that we have our first 'masa' (hike) of 4km.
I fiddled with the settings of this blog and now anyone can comment, so feel free to, because I love knowing feedback. Happy Hannukkah everyone.