Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Days 1 and 2 - From Citizen to Soldier

The transformation from citizen to soldier takes place over a number of days. Preparation at home, both physical and mental, I have talked about in previous posts. The serious stuff starts the night before when kit is ready, a uniform laid out and goodbyes are said to loved ones; even though my wife drove me to the central bus station the following morning, time is short, she is sleepy and it’s not a good time for emotional partings.

I meet a friend on the bus and we alternate updates about what’s happened since the last time, with bemoaning the fact that we’re both in uniform once more. The conversation is the same as we get to the meeting point and more familiar faces join us as we get on the buses to our base; proud fathers with pictures of their children, I flash my wedding ring, we all catch up.

At the base a surprise – instead of the usual “hurry up and wait”, everything is exceedingly well organized – signing in, getting equipment and gun and then off to the range for various drills.

In our uniforms, rifles slung over our shoulders, we certainly look the part. Far more important however, we need to be thinking like soldiers. Our commanding officer, new in the job, leaves us in no doubt as to the seriousness of the task that awaits us. Despite the generally lax discipline in the IDF, it is clear that we are to shut up and listen as he briefs us.

Ten of us, officers and NCOs are picked out to form an advanced party. On our way, we pass through Jerusalem, and the base is only 10 minutes further on. If it weren’t already clear enough that we are on the line between the capital and the terrorists, we have another three briefings to stress it. The names of towns and villages where my friends and family live are mentioned. If I left the base by car, I could be home in 20 minutes.

Tomorrow at 6am I’m going on patrol – I know precisely why I’m here and know the price of failure.

Gilly

1 comment:

Jack's Shack said...

I find these stories to be very compelling.