Saturday, 20 February 2010

Black Hawk

This past week was a really hard one physically in the army, but it marks the end of 'shetach' and 'masaot' for basic training, which finishes in a month. This week, after coming back from a closed weekend in Hebron, we were back in the 'shetach' to do an exercise, whereby we work in a group of four soldiers and capture a hill in a certain way.

The last time I was in the shetach it was extremely cold at night and rainy during the day, which made those weeks a miserable experience, in terms of how we felt being wet and muddy the whole time. Well this week, everything was the opposite as suddenly it became really hot down south, with the temperature reaching the 30s. The heat made all the physical activites that we did, and we did a lot of running, crawling and carrying, a lot lot harder. Throughout the whole week my uniform was soaking becuase of the sheer amount of sweat, while the amount of water that I drunk must have hit the giga-litre mark!! Despite the conditions and the physical effort, it was an enjoyable week, which involved a lot of group bonding within my class and the platoon. All of that bonding was to be tested though, for the masa, which took place on the Tuesday night.

Me with my garin two weeknds ago.

This week's masa, which was led by our platoon commander, whose giant frame makes one of his strides equal to three of mine, was a staggering 18+3km. It was also the last masa that is done at a pace of 6km an hour, which I am ecstatic about as the pace of this masa was nearly unbearable. We now have only about four more 'masaot' before the final one, where we receive the famous red paratrooper beret; and those next four masaot are done at a slower pace but are obviously much longer (I think the order goes something like this 25(km), 34, 50 and 74!!!!). Back to this week's masa, it was extremely tough, especially as I took the water can for one hour (which contains nine 1 and a half litre bottles of water). It's hard to explain here on a blog why the masaot are so difficult; it's a mental and physically challenge, constant walking and running for four hours with a heavy weight on your back. Pain starts kicking in from all sorts of places; from the muscle on your shin (which always starts to strain after the first ten minutes) to the agonising chafing on the inside of your thighs. It did end eventually, but only after the final, gruelling, never-ending kilometres with the open stretchers, but it did finish.

Normally, we finish a masa by returning to the base, but not this week. We went back to the shetach after the masa and slept just four hours before they woke us up to get us back to the base in the morning. The reason for the primitive sleep and early wake-up was worth it though, as we were told that we needed to be ready on time for the day's special exercise... helicopter training. Yes, that's right, on Wednesday we spent the day learning how to enter into a Black Hawk helicopter as a class within 30 seconds. It was truly an experience and one I will never forget, I wasn't scared at all, surprisingly, and I loved every minute of being in the air. We were only up for about 20 minutes in total (10 in the day, 10 at night) but it was incredible. Each helicopter has 4 pilots, all of whom wore the special air force uniform, which had the Israeli flag sewn onto the sleeve (which I immediately noticed when entering the helicopter with my zionist instincts). Also, I saw how inside the Black Hawk, drilled into the side wall, was a 'tfilat haderech' (travel prayer), which only made me beam with pride of the Israeli army. A great day.

Me with the Nachal beret, what I would have looked like if I hadn't of gotten into tzanchanim.

I said in a previous blog that there are 'joys of being a lone soldier', well it doesn't compensate the absence of parents, which for me especially, is by far the hardest aspect of being in the army. I can deal with the no sleep or long hikes (or at least I think I can) but not being able to come home and give me parents a long hug after a really tough week in the army is so painful inside. Despite all the accomplishments I've achieved and all the independancy I've gained, I do still feel like that little mummy's boy that I always was and last week I had a really hard time trying to deal with that fact that I am so far away from my beloved parents. What triggered this was the fact that my parents are moving home next week, after living in the same place for practically my whole life. It's not that I was upset about them leaving our house, which has served faultlessly as a loving home for us for 18 years, as, in fact, the new place is going to be much better for my dad, physically and socially, as well as giving my typically Jewish mum the oppurtunity to spend lots of money on new things. Instead it was the reality that at this important stage for my parents I am not going to be there with them to help with the move or be involved with all the changes. It's something that I am going to have to learn as I am sure there will be more things that I will miss out on: birthdays, anniversaries etc. However, I think I just wanted to say how I miss and think about my parents and close family every single day and, depsite being completely happy where I am now and what I'm doing, I still want to be with them the whole time.

The Jerusalem Post article about me; pinned onto the battalion noticeboard!

On the bright side, that wish will be fulfilled, as my parents will be coming here for Pesach next month, which also marks the end of my basic training (don't forget that I have four more months of advanced training afterwards) and I will be able to spend at least a week them then! The next weeks are the closing period of basic training, which includes a week of education, guard duty and other simple days. I can't believe how I am nearing the end of my basic training; how time has literally flown! Next weekend I am closing again, but should be back here the weekend after to report back on everything I've done. By the way, can Spurs please start winning again! Stay safe everyone and Happy Purim for next week.

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