Lone Soldier Week 16 – Raw and Rugged from Israel’s Front Lines.
New week here.
The wind was blowing so hard, the weather was rainy and grey. It’s Sunday morning and the troops are returning. This week is gonna be cool, we’re gonna learn the basics of urban warfare. We were all packed and ready to head out to the part of town where the training is going to take place but then its cancelled because the weather is ridiculous. We party in our rooms instead. ‘Felt like a wet recess at school, what can I say.
The next morning there was gonna be no excuses. We are soldiers, and quite frankly the army doesn’t close cause of a bit of rain. It’s barely four AM. We gotta get on our rain gear (basically just some old smelly plastic overalls). It’s dark, freezing and raining. We soon arrive and walk into the mountains a bit, trudging through the wet mud, ’til we reach a clearing. There is a bunch houses which we will evidently be using for training. It’s still raining; the commanders are making us practice all our drills in the mud, rolling over, changing magazines, shooting in different stances. It’s great.
Later on the rain ceases. throughout the day, and the next day or two, we learn how to maneuver in an urban environment as a kita or ‘chulia’ (group of four). Checking always around corners and openings, practicing how to clear and secure a small house with grenade and gunfire, how to move as a chulia while each person is covering a different area with the gun. And all those commands are coming at you in the Hebrew you gotta memorize.
We learned how to climb high walls and get onto rooftops. ‘Was all good fun, Arab kids from the nearby towns were watching us ’til they where chased away. On our way back later in the evening, our bus gets stuck in the road trying to make a turn. The entire back of the bus is caked with mud so we get to work digging. Lucky there is a spade around, but then that breaks and we’re back to using our hands and stones. I look around for a moment and realize we are in a bone-yard. There are carcasses lying here ‘n there. We are blocking the traffic, which all consists of Arabs. One of them tried to pass us in a transit van only to get stuck in the mud themselves, much to our entertainment, but we helped them out too, somewhat. A mission later, we are back on the road.
Early next morning, we hit the shooting ranges again. And drinking water throughout cause we have our next ‘masa’ later that evening. It’s gone up from seventeen kilometers to twenty-four. We left from our base in the late afternoon towards the highest mountain on the horizon. When we finally reach the top, the view is breathtaking. I’m looking around as the view takes my breath away. And then we march on, and on, and on. At some point we stopped to snack. It was bloody freezing and I recall like last time, the sweat congealing on my skin. For some reason this hike wasn’t as hard as the previous, by now a body is used to that push. We were slowly turning into machines.
Finishing the hike, we run into our base screaming at the top of our lungs holding the stretchers high above our heads. By now though, this is standard procedure. The next day we hit the urban warfare playground to practice all we have learned using paintball guns. Not just with the kita, though, but with our whole Division. The difference between this and regular paintballin’ is that now we were fighting with legit army tactics.
So the end of the week comes around, and now our unit gets to go off base for Shabbat while everyone else stays on.
The Lone Soldier column is a weekly diary of a new recruit to the Israel Defense Forces following his time in service and beyond. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org