Saturday, 12 March 2011

Feeling the competition

This weekend marked the fourth seminar of my garin; a reunion that I have with all the lone soldiers with whom I lived with (and continue to live with) on Kibbutz Ortal. This seminar has been more significant for me than the previous ones, mainly because I have been doing kav Gaza for the last five months, closing nearly a month at a time and, therefore, not seeing some of my friends since the last seminar...

For the last two weeks, I have been based at the Tzanchanim training base, taking part in the preparation for commanders' course. All in all, it has been a fun, but exhausting fortnight, and one where the outcome is still to be decided, as tomorrow I will know whether or not I will be going to commanders' course. In all honesty, it is unlikely that I will be going to 'makim' (commanders' course). As my mum said, I have said this sort of stuff before, for example after the tzanchanim gibush, but this time it is definitely different. I have been sent to the preparation for makim, on a conditional basis, i.e. if anyone else screws up, I would be taking their place. On top of this, I'm fairly 'vatik' (veteran) compared to the rest of the people there, and it is the norm to send people to makim as early as possible in their service. The only way for me to have any chance of going, is if my grades from the last two weeks (a combination of scores from the fitness test, navigations, shooting and, most importantly, a written test on just about everything connected to the army) are exceptional, which I can tell you now, are not that great. Whatever happens, it has been a great experience in this preparation and has given me an idea of the competition and professionalism that is vital in becoming qualified to be a 'mefaked' (commander).

Mucking around on the radio with my lone soldier friend from Canada, just before a navigation starts.

As I said, I actually had a fun couple of weeks in the army, mainly due to (as it always is) the people I was with. I was in a class with 12 other guys, all from tzanchanim, who had all been sent to the preparation course with the intention of them becoming commanders once they have finished the course. It was a real mix of guys; there were soldiers from all the batallions of tzanchanim (101, 202 and 890) and from a range of different draft dates, from November '09 (yours truly) to the very 'fresh' August '10, who received their red berets a mere fortnight ago. I made quick friendsips with a lot of them and, as it always seems to happen since I'm that lone soldier from London who is always speaking English, I became known by everyone in the course. Being one of the oldest ones there, meant that I was able to strutt my 'pazam' (time done in the army) around and use it to my advantage, sort of like how schoolkids do to those in younger years! This was definitely a new experience for me, especially since in the gdud, we are youngest draft and are constantly made to realise it through things like kitchen duty. Apart from the fun of being amongst the older soldiers there (by the way, 'older' doesn't necessarily mean age in the army, as not everyone drafts when they are 18, due to various different reasons, for example I am actually older than my officer in the gdud!!!), it was also cool to tell these guys stories from gaza and what it is like be in the gdud and do something real, as opposed to training. The guys I'm with are all real stars and it just shows the level of quality that those who go to makim, normally have.

Quickly going over the route of the next navigation.

It was not all fun and games though. For the first week we did navigation, which I had done only about month ago. In that sense it was good, since I was one step ahead everyone else (the whole course is rather competetive) and my navigations were all successful. However, I am now a bit sick of navigation in general, despite it being one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things in the army, and especially sick of carrying that f***ing 15kg radio on my back over hills upon hills, for 12km every night! The second week consisted of lessons from morning 'till night, on all the material we learn about as a soldier and as a commander. For me of course, this is twice as hard, not only to concentrate in Hebrew in a classroom for 13 hours a day, but also because the language itself is not your usual street-slang, which I can half-handle, instead it's technical words that even the Israelis were struggling with! Being back at the Tzanchanim training base and having long, full days, felt like I was back in basic training, which made me realise how much I miss the 'old days' and that even when I was being forced to stand on time and was being discplined in every aspect possible, I was and always have had a cracking time in the army. I am, without a doubt, a big 'mor'al' (someone who loves the army), which is normally used in an insulting way, but I don't care!!!

That's what a week of navigation does to you...

Everything was made so much sweeter by the fact that football results have gone my way in the last couple of weeks. I saw Arsenal drop out of three competitions, while my team, Tottenham, have made it through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time ever. The whole course definitely knew about this information as I have not stopped talking about it for the last week and that when everyone was in the classrooms during personal revision time, I was in the tuck shop watching the Spurs game on television! To top everything off, it has also been an amazing weekend here with my garin. It's so fantastic to spend some time with the guys who I still consider my first real family here in Israel and we had a good laugh this weekend in the North.

Garin Bazelet - a year and a half since we made aliyah!

So tomorrow is D-Day for me. Either I get accepted into commanders' course or I return to my company on the kav. I think I have made myself clear as to how much I want to go to 'makim' but I know that there is a high possibility that it won't happen and I need to be prepared for that. I am probably closing next weekend whatever happens, so happy Purim to you all, try not to get too drunk!!!

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