Monday, March 2, 2009

Jobnik Life

Recently I was selected for “RASAR” duty, which I dreaded at first because I didn’t know what it was. RASAR sounds kind of scary, doesn’t it? RAH-SAHR. Reminds me of a mean Batman villain. All I knew was that you had to go work for the RASAR, who is actually a jobnik officer on base. In fact, he is a pretty high-ranking officer. RASAR is the abbreviation of his position/role.

OK, before I thoroughly confuse some people here, let me define what “jobnik” means. I don’t think I’ve really done this before. By the way, job and jobnik are not my creation, and not how these things are called in English either. That’s how we say it in Hebrew, albeit with a funny accent (“johb-neehk”). In my estimation, you have three different types of service in the army.

1) Full-on combat (infantry, tanks, fighter jets)
2) Semi-combat (namely artillery, also combat support units that enter scary places)
3) Job (girls and guys, but I’ll be referring to only guys here)

A person in a “job” is a jobnik. A job is like working in an office pushing papers, warehouse work, medical centers, logistical stuff, and even things like driving trucks full of grenades and million-dollar equipment. If you’re not strapped up in a combat vest with an M16/Tavor, you’re a jobnik.

The jobniks of the jobniks

I don’t even know where to start. Should I start with the total lack of appreciation that their important but boring roles receive? Or maybe the ease of their training, just a month or so and then they’re ready? Maybe even a justification of their status, since after all I know some guys that wanted to be in combat but had a little medical issue that kept them from it.

I think I’ll talk about how much they’re made fun of by the combat units. Even from the very start when I was in Michve Alon, before I was in any unit at all, a point where I could have become a jobnik just as easily as a “chirnik” (foot soldier), the semi-combat artillery guys were bashing on us if we didn’t perform to their liking.

“YOU, stand in line! What, are you a jobnik or something? Go waste your time in some damn office.”

“Jobniks are a waste of IDF money! You’re acting like a jobnik!”

“Why do you have a white shirt on under your work uniform?! Take that off!!! Only jobniks do that!”

Honestly, it never ends. I wish I could remember just three out of the hundreds of hilarious incidents involving jobnik-bashing. Moreover, for the past four months the only insults I’ve ever heard had something to do either with being Ashkenazi or a jobnik. Maybe because we’re doing the dangerous stuff we feel entitled to ridicule those in the same uniform not putting themselves in harm’s way? I’m not sure, to be honest, because I fully appreciate the role of whoever makes sure I get equipment when I need it, a vehicle to bring me back from the field, or my salary on time! Jobniks do all that. Everyone mocks them.

So anyway, I think you should have a good idea of who the jobniks are, and hopefully you understand just how detestable combat guys find them. With all this baggage and associations in mind, I walked with the three other guys selected to the RASAR’s office. Waiting for us was a first lieutenant, not the RASAR himself, but the officer (probably 21 years old, by the way) got us started peeling tape off some signs right away. Jobnik kind of stuff.

After finishing the five signs he put out for us, we sat and waited for him to tell us what else to do. The officer was busy chatting up some girl, drinking coffee, and dancing to some Israeli music coming from an office. Being me, I wondered what the hell was going on. Shouldn’t I be doing something? Shouldn’t we tell him to give us the next thing to work on?

I asked Nimi why the officer wasn’t saying a word about us sitting and doing nothing.

Nimi turned his head towards mine, his lips stretched into a sly smile, and said, “This is RASAR duty. Coffee, cigarettes, and TV! Didn’t you know?” Nimi slid down the bench until his back was nearly touching the bottom boards, putting his hands behind his head in total relaxation. “Ahhh,” he breathed, “the jobnik life.”

And he turned out to be 100%, unfailingly correct. After about another hour of work in the logistics building, sorting defective gear from the new stuff, I ended up drinking coffee and watching a terrible Jackie Chan movie for hours. Then we watched MTV Europe, which is ridiculously sexual by the way, for another couple hours. I probably had about five cups of coffee, and the other guys must have smoked half a pack of cigarettes.

We just sat in a TV room with a jobnik kid with the worst teeth I’ve ever seen, vegetating. Total vegetation. And to be honest with you, I wanted nothing else. At first. In the beginning I was so excited to watch some TV and drink coffee, something I miss every day. The first hour was great. What a break from crawling in thorns and doing pushups!

But then I realized how bored I was. An hour or two of relaxation from serious physical labor is a godsend, but after three hours of this I couldn’t help but look at the jobnik and wonder just how he could do this for three years. Three years sitting in the same little room watching music videos, smoking Marlboro’s, and drinking cheap, black coffee! For him, the TV is not a break from work, but rather an hour or two in the warehouse is a break from TV!

As relaxing and easy as that day was, I was totally ready to return to my unit. I jumped right into the thorns when I got back. There isn’t even a question in my mind where I want to be in the army. TV or twenty kilometer hikes? Not even a second’s doubt, as far as I’m concerned.

One last word. Many male jobnikim on base happened to be in combat but something occurred that caused them to switch over. One guy I met was well into his service, doing raids and everything, when he went to army jail for something dumb and they decided to put him in the kitchen. Another guy from a special forces demolitions unit had back problems, and now he works with ammunition. Yet another was a single child and his parents rescinded their permission for him to be in combat.

The point of this post is also unclear to me as well! Just wanted to talk about jobnikim; explain a major part of army culture, I guess. And also, it blew my mind as I sat in that room and saw just why combat guys essentially hate jobnikim. Hate is a strong word, but I can’t think of a better one.


Anonymous said...

You need to gety some Sarelniks in there.

Unknown said...

i think its called an only child in english... i mean thats what i said being one all my life

Anonymous said...

So the paratroopers are the ultimate Jobnicks? lol Your kidding right?

Israeli by Day said...

the paratroopers are jobnikim.

Hey, I'm in golani. Its almost a law that I have to say that.

Anonymous said...

What tremendous chutzpa to call the tzanchanim jobnikis.

at maati!

Israeli by Day said...

anonymous - you either weren't in the army, or you don't have a sense of humor!

Or you were in tzanchanim!

DoubleTapper said...

Jobnik = REMF (Rear Echelon Mother Fucker) in the US military

It's what IDF Combat/Front Line troops disdainfully call our support troops.

RASAR (Rav Samal Rishon) = Master Sergeant (E8)and is the second highest rank for NCO (non Commissioned Officers) in IDF.

DoubleTapper, blogging on
Guns Politics Defense from Israel

Israeli by Day said...

thanks, doubletapper for the translations. I always like trying to translate these things. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm in 'the army' because I don't hear 'master sergeant' or 'division' or any of those known words.

Anonymous said...

Rasar is not a rank it's a job. I've seen plenty of Rasar'im with 1 chevron which is the 2nd lowest rank as an NCO in the IDF.

Anonymous said...

my son's in the 202nd. am sure when he gets back from the field he'll appreciate the humor that the golani thinks the paras
are jobniks. if I recall correctly I believe the saying around the paras is that they think and then shoot but golani just shoots. could that be correct?

Israeli by Day said...

I knew it, Anonymous!

Of course you know this is all just fun 'competition among brothers,' right? I'd gladly fight among some tzanchanim in Gaza - after they tuck their dresses in, that is.

Anonymous said...

What do all Golani and Tzanchanim have in common ? They all did Gibush for Tzanchanim.

Israeli by Day said...

Heaven forbid!

And by the way, they're eliminating the gibush for tzanchanim, and the jump school. Only sayeret is going to jump. :)

Anonymous said...

In addition to REMF, jobnik is also POG (people other [than] grunts) pronounce 'pogue'. In the US military anyone who is not combat arms (infantry, tanker, artillery, engineers) is a pogue - even if they bite the bullet like the MPs and get into firefights. They are still POGs.