Wednesday, January 12, 2005

An ideal Miluim

"He moved slowly out of the tree line, coming into range of the patrol. A match flared as a cigarette was lit, both simultaneously revealing the location of a guard and ruining his night vision. Tired after a long duty, the guard was impatient to be relieved."

We've all read the above scenario, written by Tom Clancy / Nelson DeMille / you name the male author. We've all shook our head - stupid guard - fancy lighting a cigarette - obviously gives away your position - just asking for trouble.

The guard could very easily be a Miluimnik however - certainly I've been involved with enough Miluim that would fit the bill quite nicely. Here's a scene from my previous Miluim - a night time patrol on the Jordanian border, leaving a base from somewhere in the Jordan Valley - the Bik'a. The officer in command orders the driver to drive to the middle of the area which we're patrolling. We park off the road for a 15 minute break, leave the engine running (so the vehicle remains warm), the driver climbs up on the bonnet (the warmest part of the vehicle) and goes to sleep, the officer crawls up to the roof and does likewise. I man the radio whilst the Beduin tracker calls his family. The 15 minutes becomes an hour or even two. The radio crackles into life to inform us that something has set of the sensors on the border fence 3 kilometres away; groans as I wake people up - we know it's almost certainly a wild pig or a porcupine but for the sake of form have to check.

I have to stress that when I go out it is usually in command of a patrol as opposed to manning the machine gun in the case that I've described, I run a far tighter ship - and take a lot of stick for it. Nonetheless, even the best jeep commanders will have a lot of down time during their patrols - I let my boys rest up as much as possible and am always the one awake, usually with a fat novel in my hand. I try to top up my tan as much as possible during the day whilst at night my main concern is keeping warm.

My ideal miluim is one which is quiet. I have spent 4 periods of service on the Jordanian border; by the Dead Sea and further south, in the Bik'a and further North - it's all very quiet as the Jordanians make sure to keep any possible troublemakers away from the border. Action is limited to exercises which we curse our commanding officer for running - of course they are necessary but they cut into our sleeping time.

All that the average Miluimnik wants to do is to finish his guard duty, eat, shower and get some sleep, thus passing the month or so away from home without incident so that he can get home as quickly and painlessly as possible.

This Miluim will be very different. We will be close to a population centre and, in many cases will have family that could be the target of an attack if we don't do our jobs properly. We are all smart guys and are serious when the need demands it. The very fact that the Miluim that I have described above can and does happen however, suggests that the army needs to rethink the way in which it uses its reserve soldiers.


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