I am in the middle of a really fantastic weekend here in Ortal, as it is my garin's seminar and all my friends have come back from the army to be together on the kibbutz as a sort of reunion. These are the people I made aliyah with and who I spent my first three months in Israel on the kibbutz with; some of them I haven't seen since the last seminar (due to conflicting army exits) so it has been amazing to catch up with all my friends here and spend some time with them.
I'm also in quite a good mood because I've passed an interesting and fun but also physically hard and disciplined week at jump school; and am now looking towards the upcoming week, a week I've been excited for for a very long time, paratrooping week. Yes that's right, this week I will be jumping out of a Hercules aeroplane at a height of 400m (not that high, approximately one minute in the air before landing) on five separate occassions (one without any gear, and four with full combat equipment i.e. gun and vest) with two of the five jumps being done at night! Jump school this week, like I said, was fairly hard since for eight hours a day we would have to practice jumping and falling on the floor from all types of different apparatus, like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Jk2Ac9Mqh0. Now it may not look hard but I can assure you that I'm still in a bit of pain from all the exercises this week; I have rope burns on my neck, my bum is all bruised and, for boys especially, the jump training can be extremely painful in one particular place! However, the week was a good laugh with all my friends from the army and I feel prepared for Monday when we do the first jump. I am actually not scared at all and the height doesn't bother me, which is surprising since I am quite a chicken in general, instead I am more scared of making a mistake, like not being able to release the 'sak haze' (chest bag, which contains your gun and vest), which would result in a difficult landing.
It is all very exciting and I still can't believe that I'm going to be paratrooping this week as part of my IDF service. Firstly, I remember before I made aliyah thinking how cool this thing is that the Israeli paratroopers do as part of their training. Secondly, after joining tzanchanim and company 101, I remember looking at the schedule and thinking how the paratrooping course is so far advanced into training and now that I am at that stage, I realise how time has simply flown and that I am really at the final stage of my combat training, with only 4 more weeks left on the tzanchanim training base! Finally, paratrooping/parachuting, is something that many people look to do in civilian life and is considered one of the many "things to do in life". I feel privileged to have the opportunity to do this exciting activity in an army atmosphere, with all my new Israeli friends and there is definitely some sprinkle of zionism connected. I am simply so excited for this week and the big reward will be on Friday when we receive our 'wings', a silver pin to put on our uniform.
I also want to explain how doing the paratrooping course is not a regular thing a soldier, or even a combat soldier, in the IDF gets to do. The only people who paratroop in the army is us (the tzanchanim - paratroopers), elite units and anyone who might get to do the course as a reward for being an excellent soldier, like an officer who's been in the army for many years. Out of the people who get to do the paratrooping course, it is only tzanchanim who jump five times (compared to two times for everyone else, including the elite units) and we learn to do it in a 'professional' way i.e. if Israel needed to paratroop soldiers in a war situation then we have been trained to paratroop, land and be ready to fight. Nevertheless, the practicality is that paratrooping is not used anymore in modern warfare and tzanchanim continue to train for it as part of our decorated tradition and history; in the 1956 Sinai campaign, tzanchanim soldiers did actully paratroop into Egypt as part of a mission. So as you can tell, it is clearly a great honour to do this special course and to have those coveted wings on your uniform. It also shows to me why tzanchanim is easily the best combat brigade in the IDF, it's also the only one that has a 'gibush' (screening test) in order to get into it. I'm obviously bias and the friendly rivalry between the five combat brigades in the IDF; Tzanchanim, Golani (our enemy), Nachal, Givati and Kfir, is good fun but there's really no competition!!!
This is exactly what I will be doing on Monday - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elfNPpqXKL8 (just not in Iraq!)
Time to wrap up, I will hopefully be out again next weekend and will definitely have a lot of talk about in the next blog. I normally finish a blog by saying "wish me luck" for something I have the upcoming week, but this week I think it has even more meaning. It really is a big deal and I'm sure if you speak to my mum, she will say how she can't believe how her little baby is going to be jumping out of a plane as part of his military training! Anyway, got to go now, let's just hope I don't forget to open the parachute (!), only joking, it opens up automatically!!!