Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Masa Kumta - Beret March

Writing a blog entry about a march that begins at 7:30pm and ends the next day at 6am is probably harder than the hike itself. What can I say about it? I guess I'll just give a little background...

The masa kumta (beret march, essentially) is the final hike in a long series of hikes that begin in the first month of basic training, and end, at least for certain infantry units, at the end of advanced training. That means that for the duration of your entire training period you have to face these marches. The purpose of a masa is clear: you do them in combat. Not every battle is found right outside your barrack's doors. Sometimes you've gotta hike a few miles out there, or a few back. Why do we open stretchers and load them up and hike miles and miles with them? Because at the end of most battles you've gotta get the wounded out, and there are always wounded. Of course, the masaot also build teamwork, esprit de corps, and give training a sort of backbone - not to mention a clear finale.

What is a masa? Two single file lines. Usually at night. Complete silence. Full gear (combat vest with all related equipment, personal gun, light machine gun, heavy machine gun, water packs, stretchers). Very fast pace (6 to 10 km/h). Steep inclines.

And what is the masa kumta? This is when you earn your brigade's beret, which is simply a different color from other brigades.

OK, is everything explained well? Good, so let's get personal now. You want to know what it was like? It sucked. Everyone was in agreement: it was twice as bad as the "machin masa kumta," which is the 'preparation masa' for the masa kumta. That means it was the one right before this final one. They were the same pace, of course same gear and all that, but the machin had more inclines, meaning it should have been much worse. However, I remember laughing and smiling and singing to myself the entire machin masa! It was good times! "ONLY ONE LEFT!," I thought happily.

The masa kumta, however, brought me no such joy. I don't think I even dreaded it. I don't think I was nervous or anything. I was ready to get it over with before we started, but I did want to do it. I often have thoughts like, "I wish I could just do this blacked out, wake up during the final two minutes for the joy of finishing, and that's it." But I wasn't thinking that about the masa kumta. I wanted to say I did it with a clear mind, suffered as necessary, and finished strong.

I don't know what to tell you, mainly because I don't know myself. Why was it so hard when it actually should have been easier than that machin? I have no idea. Strange. Despite the torture that this was, I am extremely proud of myself for stepping it up with the gear. You see, we have extra gear that we have to carry the entire march - stretchers and a water pack. The stretchers aren't anything but obnoxious to carry on your back, but the water pack... the water pack is tough.

The pack we have holds 11 one and a half liter bottles, I believe.* That's 16.5 liters according to my calculator. Now, according to the infinitely wise Internet, a liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds. So, let me crunch some numbers... 36 pounds. You may be thinking that that's not too bad, it's not 100 pounds, but you try humping 36 pounds at 8km/h for even one hour. Don't forget your gun and your combat vest loaded with ammo, either.

No one ever wants to grab the water pack. We switch off just about every hour, but it always takes a long time to get someone to grab it. Usually the uncomfortable silence of no one stepping forward ends with the commanders yelling at people, and then they grab it. I took the pack the second hour, then after an hour passed it off per routine. Long story short, I was carrying the water again closer to the end, once we had opened the stretchers, despite there being numerous people that hadn't had the joy of lugging it. For the next nearly three hours I had it. No one offered to take the pack, and I didn't ask anyone to. That's 1 hour plus almost 3. Let's say 4 hours with the pack. Can't complain, though - I'm not the MAGist (heavy machine gunner).

For 7 months I dreaded masaot because of that pack, so I wanted to finish strong, with the water pack on my back, and the stretcher on a shoulder. There were guys in the back stumbling along, just trying to keep up, but about 10 of us were giving 100% so we could say we finished with everything we had. Waterpack on my back, stretcher on a shoulder, we ran to the finish line, a full sprint. I thought I was going to fall, but we went right on through to the end - 100%.

That's how you finish this crap.

How did I feel? Anti-climatic. I wasn't tired at all, like most of the guys. They were sleepy, but I don't know, I just kinda felt like I had something to do. I finished everything, the final step in the final masa had been taken, but there I stood. What next? I thought, "Well ok, we can do another one. It's not like that was my physical limit, really." It was hard and all, but why couldn't I do another 10k? Trust me, I don't want to, but after you spend 7 months going from masa to masa, it's weird to think that it's all over.

You know when you have a word on the tip of your tongue? The word is just past that little mental barrier, whatever that barrier is. You can feel it! UGH, what's that word?! Well, I felt like I had joy or relief on the tip of my tongue. Not the word, but the feeling. I could sense those emotions right there, but there was some kind of mental/emotional barrier holding me back from feeling it. Surely it's just because I've been waiting for this masa for so long, and it was bound to be anti-climatic.

Either way, I'm happy. I got through it with the help of tons of junk food stuffed into my pockets and vest (advice: sunflower seeds). Tons of pictures were taken by my commander, who grabbed my camera 5 minutes in and didn't give it back until the next day. The physically intimidating yet mentally weak French kid quit halfway through, as predicted. The weather was great. Everyone had the worst שפשפת ever (don't ask). And there was an awesome breakfast afterward.

All's well that ends well, no?

* - There are many water packs. Don't harp on 'giving away military secrets' here. It's not important.

Here's a couple pictures:

The start

You'd think this is a bad picture, but it kinda says
a lot about what a masa is like.

Breakfast - can't beat a tower of chocolate milk

A friendly blood blister. Not me, thankfully.

The kid's foot is literally coming apart here. The skin
just peeled and got pushed upward. Look at the yellow
flaps up there under the toes. That's skin bunched up.


Rafael said...

Hey, congratulations man! You deserve it! Gotta ask, sorry...what now? you still have half an year in the army, don't you?

Tim Curtiss said...

Now you can volunteer for "Golani Patrol."

Israeli by Day said...

I actually have just under a year left. We'll see what they do with us.

Lauren said...

Congratulations to you and the others!

Rach said...

Ouuuuuuuuuuch. those blisters look DAMN painful - but well deserved.

Mazal tov!

Brian said...

Cheers From Argentina!

it`s really a pleasure that you have made it.

i`m 16 and i hope that one day i will be in that masa.


Atniel said...

kol hakavod from America.

Ditto, Mr. Brian.

Anonymous said...

the tsanchanim told me golani's beret march was, in actuality, sitting in the back of truck the entire 10km w/ a spritzer and potato chips. congrats in any event.

Israeli by Day said...

at least we don't wear dresses.

Rafael said...

hahahhahaha, nice reply.

Shalom, Cherry Hill, NJ said...

Way to go. I was in Nachal, and thought the best comment I heard from a Golanchik was about the brown kumta: 'lo maspeek she'anachnu ochlim charah--gam chirbenu lanu al ha'rosh'.

Mrs. Belogski said...

Only in Israel would they feed soldiers on chocolate milk, bamba and bisli after an all-night hike!

Anonymous said...

Mazal tov Dani! Mamash kol hakavod! Tehene hachofesh she yesh lecha karega.

Kirara said...

agreed, so how long of a break do you get? You do get a break... right?

Anonymous said...

#1. Are you literally running the whole time? Crazy...

#2. What happened to the kid who quit? Did he have to drop out of Golani?

Amiel said...

Wow Kol Hakavod man! What an admirable feat to have accomplished. I bet it feels great. That one part with the שפשפת got me cringing though. A few of my friends got it on a nature hike last summer and their remedy was spraying a bottle of axe or other spray deodorant onto it, and they swear by it so that might help!

שיהיה לך כח להמשיך

Anonymous said...

So to that kid who didn't finish, does he get kicked out of the unit?

Israeli by Day said...

#1 - no, you aren't running the whole time by any means. The masaot up until 10k or so are half running, which KILLS. We run only to catch up with the groups in front of us at this point, and since we are machlaka 3 out of 3... we ran more than everyone else. Sucks!

#2 - masaot aren't necessary parts of the training. You've just gotta do what you can do, with the 100% expectation that you do it all. So, you do it all, but if you cant...
There are a few things you absolutely have to do, but if you come you'll find that out for yourself.

Anonymous said...

We all love you and miss you like crazy bro. Be safe!!!!

Unknown said...

Dude you look skinny as a mug. Eat some bagels with cream cheese and lots of fatty chocolate milk. Going to the lake this weekend really wish you could come. I'll drink a couple for you and possibly crack on Shitnuts once or twice for you as well. Love you and miss you Danny stay safe and keep it BGTYMR.


Anonymous said...

That is awesome! Congrats! I remember my "masa kumta" in 1992 through the back hills of the Macabim region back to Mitkan Adam.

I was not in Golani.

The שפשפת is the worst thing in the world! Oh fer gershness sakes!

Best of luck with your "Imoon Mitkadem" and on to your "mivtzaim."

I will be following your progress. As an aside, don't be too hard on the French kid. He probably doesn't deserve it.

Unknown said...

Hey, I'm so glad i stumbled across your blog! Did you do Garin Ztabar? I'm Nov 5, I started off working in Kishre Chutz and I was lucky enough to get a job working in the Simulator in Nachal, it was wicked fun! Anyway, you've brought back a ton of wonderful memories, and I'm going to follow your blog now! Also, congrats on the masa, it sounds like you'll blow through mitkadem, keep up the great spirit!

Taller than a Hobbit said...

you might try some body glide for that shafshefet...

Israeli by Day said...

thanks everyone.

As I wrote in the post, we do the final masa at the end of advanced training, so I'm done with all that!

Taller than a Hobbit said...

Well yeah I've been a longtime follower but in case there are others reading this blog about to start, or should you find yourself doing a march of some sort someone might find it useful. (Didn't know about it till recently, otherwise I'da said something sooner, sorry)

Anonymous said...

I just here on your blog to read how Tzair you are.
Have fun in the imuun. If you thought masa kuumta is bad, you'll enjoy the tar'gad.

Israeli by Day said...

anonymous - my kipa during the tarpal of shavua milchama plugati was about a 40 minute walk from the starting point. we set that kipa on fire too with the macklach, so it was disgusting to do dilugim on. It was a massive hill. Massive. And, get this: everyone got to run on the scorched section, except for me. I'm kala chod, so I'm far left, and it just happened to be major thornland, which wasnt burned away at all. on top of all that, I had the pekal mayim. The mamach had to grab me at one point and pull me forward I was dying so bad. The mamach literally grabbed me by the sleeze and we sprinted to the ishur kav. I got my revenge though by shooting the heller out of my tavor on automatic, with the mm, mp, mamach, and magad standing all within 30 meters of me...
I survived.
In short, nothing is as bad as people want you to think! .

Anonymous said...

Danny, I love reading your posts!!! Whens the next one coming?

Taller than a Hobbit said...

Hey happy Fourth of July. (though... drat I think I missed it for your local time now that I think of it.)

Oh well, hope it was fun!

Also, why do you keep getting the water pack? They're going to start calling you the water guy or something if you're not careful.

Eli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eli said...

Hey Danny, I really like your blog, it's a big inspiration to me. Congratulations on completing the masa kumpta, much respect.

I'm a born-and-raised American who's about to to make Aliyah in the next month or so and join the IDF. I have immense respect for your bravery and selflessness in going to Israel by yourself to fight for the Jewish people. I can't even speak for myself in that regard, most of my family is in Israel.

Anyway, I was wondering if you could answer a quick question. Is there anywhere I can look at all the units and jobs available for me to request during my interview, in detail? Is such information available, in English?

Thanks so much and the absolute best of luck to you.


Israeli by Day said...

True American - I don't know if there is a resource like that, but I can list some stuff for you depending on your term of service (length).

For instance, if you're doing at least 1.5 years, you can do combat.

So, in infantry:

Golani, Tzanchanim (paratroopers), Givati, Nachal, Kfir, Magav (military police, border guys).

Also, you can do tanks.

I think if you want to do a shorter term, you can still do N"M (anti-aircraft), totchanim (artillery), and probably something else.

Also, you can do modiin sadeh (field intelligence - kind of infantry).

Non-combat stuff is all the same six month obligation. Logistics (terrible), some kind of madrich (instructer), etc.

Call up "garin tzabar" for more info, probably.

Good luck, and make sure you know what you're getting into. My blog leaves out how the army is not fun the majority of the time. Remember that. But good luck either way.

Anonymous said...

True American- it sounds like you're going by yurself, correct? Have you looked into garin tzabar? It's a program where you are giving living quarters on a kibbutz with other people in your position- sometimes it can be annoying, but they have a ton of pull with getting good jobs and advocating for your rights when you're in a bind. I did the army in 2005, best experience of my life, and I was sad to see it end. However, sometimes being alone over there and dealing with all the bureaucracy that we Americans are simply not used to can be really difficult, and the one good thing about the garin is you have camaraderie. And they can offer you support in English.

Eli said...

I wish I could have done garin tzabar but I only found out about it a couple months ago and at that point it was too late. As of now, I am making Aliyah, by myself, at 18, so 30 months will be expected of me. I won't be alone though, like 90% of my family including my father lives in Israel. I'll be doing a kibbutz ulpan program at Ma'agan Michael before I go to the army.

Thanks a lot for the help. I should be landing in Israel in the next month or so on an NBN flight. My only regret now is that I won't get to fly on one of those charter flights like you did, probably only a group flight, but it's not the biggest loss in the world. I met with an army official at my local consulate a while back and he gave me some website that's supposed to list all the units and jobs and what not but it was pretty uninformative. I guess it's a security issue? I don't know.

So my question now is, when you gave your top 3 things you wanted to do/didn't want to do, how did you know what to write? Even though you knew you wanted a combat unit and all that, were all the specific options for your to choose from laid out for you right there in the interview? Did you request the sayeret, or Golani specifically? Can you even just request "sayeret" and see how you fare in the gibush and see what units will take you, if any, and go from there? Sorry for the length of the post. Also again, much respect to you and what you're doing. If you're not getting out in the next eight months or so, we'll probably end up serving together even though I'll be in training for awhile, obviously. Good luck with everything.

Oren said...

Do immigrants have a smaller service length (i know mahalnicks do). Also did you have a lesser service lenghts because of your age.
I've got 3 years till aliyah.
Thanks for the blog.

Eli said...

Oren - Yes, immigrants will have shorter military commitment than native Israelis. Even at 18, immigrants aren't asked to serve as long as regular Israelis are. You can look at this chart:

In regards to Mahal, you can look at this website:

the sabra said...

Wow congratulations.
Silly daydreams aside, you're workin mighty hard to protect my wellbeing, my very life.


rafael said...

Hey Danny, what about your krav maga? I'm really curious about it. What kind of skills did you learn? What is this fighting style all about? I read a lot about it, but I would like to know it first handed, you know?

Ami Vider said...

Did you take part in the run from the golan to eilat? Take a look at the picture and story from Tel Aviv. http://israeltomorrow.blogspot.com/2009/06/sex-in-city-sweaty-soldiers-out-of.html -- Oh, the inspiration to the "sex" part comes from a few chicks on the other side of Rabin square while on a lunch break. I didn't actually speak with the golani soldiers but they did look good in yellow :)

Anonymous said...

I LOVE THIS BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!!

WHEN IS THE NEXT POST COMING?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I CANT WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Israeli by Day said...

rafael - I wrote one of my best posts about krav maga back in october or november - take a look for that. In terms of what we actually learn, I don't think I should reveal that. But I suppose any website on krav maga might just be the same stuff.

Ami - if they tried to make me run from the golan to eilat I'd simply tell them to send me to jail instead. It is 9am, however, and we just did a vest run plus stretcher. Those are always tough. To make it worse, I was under the stretcher the entire time, no one would switch. I feel like I get enough exercise!


Israeli by Day said...

oh, if anyone sees this, yes a post is coming. I'm on base for a long stretch at the moment but there will be another post.

Taller than a Hobbit said...

Yay :)

I love the blog said...

thank god a post is coming!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

can anyone tell me ANYTHING about moddin sadeh?
Is it respected?
is it actually combatic?

Israeli by Day said...

Anonymous - Sorry, your comment went into my spam filter and wasn't published. I believe Modiin Saadeh has a new name, Chil Ha'eisuf Ha'kravi, חיל האיסוף הקרבי, or the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps. They are respected, they do very important, hard work, and get to go to some really cool places. All I really know about the general units is that they carry extremely heavy optic equipment and do A LOT of surveillance. Surveillance sounds cool, right?

What it really means is that a group of guys sit out in a hole on the Gaza border and just watch for bad guys, for days on end. We did ambushes like that, but it was one of many things we did. I'm sure the field intelligence guys do other stuff, but I just know this is one big thing they do.

You can't go wrong with any combat unit, though. It's all a huge challenge, respected, and the bottom line is they serve Israel. That's what's most important.