Thursday, 8 March 2012

"Ad Matay?"

Another three weeks of 'imun' (training) have passed since the last blog and some very significant events have come about within that period. Firstly, the dreaded 'targad' is now just a memory, albeit a terrifyingly vivid one and due to the fact that I'm sitting here writing the blog, I somehow survived it. Yet, I will go into the details of the 'targad' in the next blog, as its ferocity deserves a post in itself.

The past month and a half in the army has very much been a transitional month, as Marchs, Augusts and Novembers usually are within the combat world of the army. Primarily, a new 'mahzor' (draft), Match '12, enlisted, of which I have nothing to do with, apart from the fact that every new 'mahzor' pushes my one, Nov '09, closer to the finish line. Maybe if I still had more time left in the army then I could have been a 'mefaked' during the 'trom tironut' period for the March '12 draft, just as I have been for the previous two drafts! This month of transition also means a lot of people are released from the army, like the March '09 'mahzor', as well as soldiers moving around, getting new jobs or just leaving the army in general. One of these to be released from the army was my 'mem mem' (platoon commander), Asaf, who was my officer over the last six months. Asaf was the first 'mem mem' who has felt like a friend more than a commander to me and over the past six months I got on really well with him, partly due to our similar interests and sense of humour. We had a good relationship and it showed through the fact he appointed me his 'rats' (runner); meaning I was always close to him in the 'shetach'. His departure meant a new 'mem mem' came in and although I was with him only for a couple of weeks, he also had me as his 'rats' in the short time that I had left in the army. The new 'mem mem' is also a great guy and I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to have him for a longer period of time.

While the youngsters are manually grounding the coffee for us, the veterans, I am on my knees shouting "ad matay?" (until when?), a phrase only those at the end of their service are allowed to say. Combat army culture at its best!

One of the acts of 'shetach' from the past month was the 'bohen pluga' (company examination), which only lasted one night but was memorable for being the coldest night I've ever experienced. The actualy examination was just something that the commanders of the paratroopers do for each company within the brigade and it's simply a test of the company's capability in the 'shetach'. So, expecting a not too strenuous night of some walking, a combat exercise and some target shooting, we left for the 'shetach' in relatively good moods. This quickly changed once we arrived at our destination in the northern part of the Golan, where high altitude and powerful winds plummeted the temperature. Normally when walking with full combat gear on, it's strongly advised not to wear anything apart from your uniform; in fear of getting heatstroke due to the sweat caused by the physical workout. During the 'imun horef', most, including myself, have been wearing a breathable shirt or even a thermal below the uniform simply because of the weather and that had been a good balance. However, the night of the 'bohen pluga' every single soldier was wearing at least one thermal below the unifrom and a fleece (!) on top, which is an almighty thick piece of clothing that one wears during guard duty, when on base or any other static state. Doing exercise i.e. walking around in full combat attire, with a fleece on is almost tempting death but during the 'bohen pluga' it was a neccesity and with eveything I had on I was still completely freezing throughout the whole night. It was said that tempereatures reached -3 degrees and it really should have been stopped but somehow we survived until the morning!!!

The morning of the 'bohen pluga' when it was slightly warmer. Yes, I look very warm indeed.

Following the 'targad', we pretty much recovered for a week and celebrated the 'hag pluga' (company festival), which is basically a day off from the regular routine of the army. For this year's 'hag pluga', we went to a country club in the Golan, where we relaxed in saunas and jacuzzis all day! In the evening we had a big meal and received a t-shirt (my collection of t shirts from the army has become ridiculous now) as a present from the company. Seeing as it was my last week in the army, it was a nice way to part with everyone from my company of which I have been a part of on-off for the last year and a half. When my 'mahzor' finished its first year in the army way back in September 2010, we joined the veteran companies within the battalion and I was assigned to the 'mivtsayit' (operational) company. I have been with the 'mivtsayit' since then; going through the 'kav's in Gaza, Lebanon and in the West Bank, as well as this recent 'imun'. Of course, I have come and gone quite a few times in that period, what with commanders' course, the three roles as a 'meaked' and let's not forget all the family holidays too! However, I still feel very attached to the company and there's always this feeling of loyalty to the 'mivtsayit' when coming up against the other two veteran companies in the battalion or in commanders' course where I would still use the 'mivtsayit' gun strap and dogtag cover. It has been a good home for me and is the best company within 101 and the 'hag pluga' was a pleasant way for me to say goodbye to everyone involved.

The glass plaque I was presented with at the 'hag pluga' for my service to the 'mivtsayit' company.

I write this blog to you from my home in Tel Aviv as always, yet the difference now is that I don't need to go back to the army as I am currently on my 'chafshash' (release holiday). I am still officially a soldier in every sense i.e. have all soldier rights and could be called back in an emergency, yet I have had my last day on base and in uniform. I am not going to delve into my thoughts just yet, I still feel I have a couple more blogs left in me to express the whole "being released" feeling, however, as of yesterday, I am on a three week holiday before I am officially released on the 2nd of April. Only combat soldiers are entitled to 'chafshash' and before leaving yesterday, I had to give back all the equipment that I am signed on to within the army. That meant giving back my gun, all my combat gear (vest, helmet, water canteens, waterproof clothing etc) and all my work uniforms. Any spares I had I gave away, to lone soldiers mainly (!) but now I am left with just my 'aleph' (dress) uniform, which I will return on my release date. It's very strange to give back all the stuff, I felt both a relief and a sense of sadness during the whole process. Mainly though, leaving for 'chafshash' meant saying goodbye to all my good friends in the army and it was extremely difficult to part ways with guys in my 'mahlaka' (platoon) who I have been with since day one of basic training.

So my last day in the army has more or less passed and I'm now on holiday not knowing what to do with myself. I am planning to write a blog in the next few days describing the 'targad' and then after that, I will write a couple more regarding my release from the army, which will effectively be my last blogs...

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