Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Golani, G'dud 12, Barak
As per my request, I received the battalion within Golani that I wanted. Essentially, you have the Golani Brigade, then three different battalions - 12, 13, and 51. I personally wanted 12 simply because I have a friend in 12, and he's about 4 months ahead of me. He gives me the inside scoop, and being within 12 nearly guarantees that I'll be following his footsteps to the T. Sometimes I need to know what's in store, and when it comes to this stuff, mystery is a bad thing.
So, now we're finished discussing trom and all this preliminary stuff. Basic training has started (as of the posting of this, training started a few weeks ago, actually). I'm in the army, in my specific unit. I'm with the commander I'll be with for the next 8 months. I'm with the guys I'll be with for my army stint. I'm here. I'm settled.
We were taken from our trom units to a large square where we practice ceremonial formations, dumped all our gear, and sat down on the ground. An officer was at a podium up front and began calling out our names. Eventually my name was called, and I walked over to a group of guys already in formation. Some jerk was yelling at the group, and then we began walking over to our new barracks.
Finally we reached the barracks and were taken to our assigned rooms. I dumped my stuff on one of the far beds, and then stood next to it in my typically slumped posture. We were waiting for our commander to enter. I looked around the room at the 15 other guys, 14 native Israelis, and just marveled at the idea that these young men were soon to be my brothers in arms. We all were glancing around, nervous, wondering who would be friends with who, who would fight with who, who would be the star, who would be the weak link... And most importantly, what was our commander going to be like.
After a few minutes squadron commander walked in. In charge of about 16 new soldiers, give or take, is a skinny little Ethiopian guy no more than 20 years old, and most likely he's 19. My heart dropped the instant I saw he was Ethiopian, not because he's black, but because I, along with many Western immigrants, have a hard time understanding the Ethiopian accent. I can't understand French people speaking Hebrew. I can't understand Mizrachi Jews speaking Hebrew. And generally I can't understand Ethiopians. It's just an accent thing. Some people can't understand Americans speaking Hebrew.
But, it turned out that his Hebrew is very clear and he speaks with a minimal accent. I got used to it within a few hours, so all of those fears have been allayed. Moreover, I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am with my squad. Your Danny really does luck out sometimes. First of all, as far as commanders go, mine is a sweetheart. During basic training there is supposed to be serious distance between the new guys and their leader. No smiles, no jokes, no "good morning" or "did you sleep well" friendliness. But my guy, he's totally the opposite.
Obviously I'm exagerating a little bit, but honestly the distance is minimal. We overheard his name a few times, but of course we don't use it. He's just "HaMefaked," or The Commander, to us. But he's always smiling when someone says something stupid, which is pretty often. He always asks if we have any problems. He talks to us like humans. He understands when we mess up, and instead of yelling at us he'll just give us physical punishment, which is much better than being berated. He even laughs at our jokes - generally. Most importantly, he told me that my Hebrew is good and that whenever it's lacking, he's there to help me. Do you have any idea how relieving it is to hear that from your direct commander on the first day of basic training after an entire year sweating bullets about whether or not I'd be able to hack it based solely on my language skills?
My commander is just an all around good guy. I'll have to come up with a name for him for the sake of the blog. Any suggestions? Just write them in as a comment!
Secondly, and finally for this initial post about my squad, the guys are all great. About every single one of them has come up to me and asked all about why I'm here, how old I am, what college was like, and finally they tell me "kol hakavod," which literally means "all the honor." As you can tell, they're very appreciate of me. Coming out here and joining this army takes a hell of a lot of inspiration and ideology, so when you get a native that wants to shake your hand because of it... that really makes the struggles worth it.
What really made me smile was when I heard one after another of them call their parents at night and tell them about me. I'm just one of many immigrants to go to Golani this draft, but here in my squadron I'm a special person for them.