Saturday, 30 July 2011

"Mefaked Sam"

This may well end up being the best three weeks of my whole service and I still can't believe how lucky I have got in this past week. Aside from starting my 'tafkid' (role) as a commander of newly-recruits in the tzanchanim yesterday, we were also given a random two-day holiday from the army in preparation for the 'tafkid' and, therefore, spent more time with my mum, who was here in Israel for work.

When I arrived at the 'Bach' (tzanchanim training base) with the other commanders last Sunday, I was expecting a couple of days of training for this new 'tafkid', before we would eventually meet the new soldiers at the Bakkum yesterday, which was the official draft date for the August '11 draft of tzanchanim. However, we all soon became extremely happy, after learning the schedule for the upcoming weeks ahead. The preparation ended up being just a couple of hours, meaning that we literally had nothing to do from Sunday afternoon until yesterday, Wednesday, the day the new soldiers drafted. So, we were given two and a half days of holiday (!), now this is something that never happens in the army; if you've got nothing to do then they find something for you, there's no such thing as a two day break from the army for no reason. So you can imagine our joy and also our shock to find out about this little gift we were given. It doesn't end there; following the draft day at the 'Bakkum' (the base where every soldier first drafts) yesterday, we then went home for the weekend! That's a 'ravush' (wednesday weekend), meaning that I was in the army this week for a little under two days, without actually having any official holiday. The best (and also spooky) part of it all meant that for the one week where I was hardly in the army, happened to be the same week that my mum was here for work. Consequently, I managed to see my mum for nearly her whole trip here, which came from nothing as I expected to hardly see here and this was of course the greatest part of it all, as we spent some real quality time together.

Yesterday was the big day for me; my first day in my new 'tafkid' as a commander and the day where I received my soldiers for the first time. Being at the 'Bakkum' again brought back some interesting memories and reminded me how far I've come since the day when I first became the army's property!!! I, along with the other commanders, arrived at the 'Bakkum' yesterday with the expectation of a long and tiring day, and we were not disappointed. Before receiving our own soldiers, we first had to help all the newly-drafted tzanchanim in the infamous changing rooms. This is the part where after going through the long process of getting the army ID, having injections, being photographed, form-filling etc, you finally arrive to the room where you get your uniform and make the last transition from citizen to soldier. This is always the most stressful part of the day, as I remember, not only are you being rushed but also have the difficulty of knowing how to dress correctly in this new uniform. Our initial role as commanders was to help the new soldiers with this scary process by... well... dressing them!!! Those couple of hours I spent in the changing rooms may be the funniest I'll have in my whole service. I cannot begin to describe some of the stupid questions I was asked; from "how do you put on shoes?" to "why didn't I get the red beret?", to some of the ridiculous things I ended up doing; from buttoning up shirts to tying up shoelaces. I don't blame them though, we were all like that at the start, but when you get to the position that I am in now, it's hard not to laugh at their naivity and how 'tsair' (young and unexperienced) they were.

Following the hilarious changing room incident, I then proceeded to stand in front of my new soldiers for the next two weeks. Thirty eight soldiers (yes, that's right 38, the size of a platoon, making me effectively a platoon commander because of the sheer number of soldiers) all of whom are 100% reliant on me and who I am now 100% responsible for. It's a huge responsibility, no I'm not leading them into war tomorrow, but I am in charge of their welfare and well-being for the next fortnight, which is their first two weeks in the army. They'll be soldiers now for three years but these first weeks are the most crucial and most difficult due to the dramatic change from being a citizen to being a soldier; suddenly adapting to being told when to eat, sleep and go to the toilet and where, when and how to walk, stand and sit is a huge transition. As their commander I need to make sure each and every one of my soldiers gets through this difficult stage and learns how to behave like a soldier. The 'tafkid', mainly because of the amount of soldiers I have, is also a massive head ache. For example, I need to make sure they all arrive on Sunday to the right place, with the right equipment and on time, no doubt, each soldier will have their own personal problem, meaning my phone is not going to stop ringing all weekend.
The "fresh meat"; my soldiers for the next two weeks.

Despite eveything I've just said though, I simply cannot wait to get started. Although I was only with them for a few hours yesterday, I am already relishing the role and really enjoy the power, not in a dictator sort of way, but in the fact that they need to listen to me and I can help and instruct them. In the few hours I was with them, I have already made a good impression on them, even having a number of soldiers come up to thank me for helping them so far and some even saying they already like me. A little exaggerated I know, but it's kind of like having children, as I need to teach them what to do and what not to do, and if they get out of line, then punish them. I can see from yesterday however, that my style of leadership is one that is more laid back, smiling and joking, rather than shouting and screaming. Having them call me "mefaked Sam", not by my own insistence, makes me feel very proud, to think that a mere two years I was on the verge of making aliyah and now I have 38 soldiers calling me "commander" is simply mind-blowing. This upcoming week, I will be with them a lot; helping them with their absorption to the 'Bach', getting them prepared for the internal tzanchanim gibush and just being there if they need. I will also need to be a bit more disciplinary with them next week, in order to maintain the strict rules of the 'Bach'; walking in straight lines, lining up for food and standing at attention. All this stuff will be a very funny experience for me, to think that I'm going to be standing in front of all those soldiers while trying to keep a straight face is definitely going to be challenge.

Just as I was last weekend, I am very excited to go back to the army on Sunday, despite the fact I am going to have to wake up so early on Sunday morning in order to be the first to arrive. Next week is going to be a hard week for me; little sleep, having to handle the problems of 38 different soldiers and keeping up with a very tight schedule is no easy feat, but something I am looking forward to. I will once again be out next weekend (while the rest of my platoon closes another Shabbat up north as part of the '17'!!!) so will hopefully write another blog on the week's experiences.

1 comment:

  1. Ken ha mefaked! must be the top words you hear this time..

    Enjoy and use your power and authority with windsom and justice.

    REally proud of you.