Friday, September 4, 2009

Military Police

I haven't broached this topic for the entire length of writing this blog, mainly because I didn't know where to start. In a sentence, there is no more hated group of soldiers in the IDF than the military police - namely, the branch that stands around checking to see if the soldiers are wearing their uniforms correctly, are shaven, have all their papers, and so on. Combat soldiers especially feel a venomous animosity for these jobnikim that go home every week, do no 10k runs, do no hikes with half their body weight packed on them, and yet have the chutzpah - the chutzpah! - to give us a violation.

What penalty does a violation incur? The worst penalty of all: confinement on base for anywhere from 21 to 28 days, and it can be much longer depending on your unit's schedule. When all your friends are going home, you know that you're staying on base not because you volunteered in order for others to have fun, but rather because some jerk in a white hat didn't see your dog tags around your neck. And if that confinement wasn't enough, enjoy your hearing with the battalion commander. Yeah, you read that. Even a little violation necessitates a mini-trial before a lieutenant freaking colonel.

So how do these guys strike... There are certain days, hours, and places where soldiers pass through in high numbers in order to return to or go home from their bases. In an effort to not give Hizbullah any extra info on when kids are in high volume in certain places at certain times, suffice it to say that there are favored times of the MP to fill their quotas. So, on these particular days you get off a bus or a train, and standing right near the terminals or the entrance are the MP. Just waiting for you.

Propaganda. Look at him smiling.

White hat, white and red brassard (armlet), white belt, and a bloody nametag. A nametag.

"Damnit," you think to yourself. Quickly, you better check to make sure everything is clear. Boots polished with no dirt showing from the week of crawling in the mud? Are your pant legs tucked into your socks so they are rolled up properly? Is your shirt tucked in neatly to your pants? Are all the buttons buttoned? Did you put your dog tag on, or did you forget that in your pocket because you only slept two hours the night before? Is your hair cut and not a little past the proper length? Not that you just spent 21 days on base or anything and there wasn't a haircutter. Is your beret in your epaulette neatly? And most importantly, if you have a beard do you have the permission form, and if you don't, are you 100% clean shaven?

All of this is a split second check that is performed exactly one minute after waking up from a deep sleep on a two hour bus ride and exiting on to the sidewalk in a half-woken daze. While a Golani soldier is about to go into the West Bank and guard against terrorism, the MP are comfortably stationed in Tel Aviv near the beach, slapping around the defenders of the nation.

Such b.s.

Seriously, listen to this: Once during training one of our guys started telling a story about his brother and the Second Lebanon War. We all had heard stories about this guy, how he was a crazy veteran in his day. For example, he stood up in a battalion-wide meeting with the Chief of the General Staff (head of the entire army) and yelled "UNTIL WHEN?!," a popular veteran-only expression. That's craziness to do that. Anyway, this slightly deranged brother of our slightly deranged friend was a staff sergeant sniper.

After spending twenty some days on base, the Lebanon War started back in 2006. That war lasted for 34 days. So, this guy wasn't home for fifty some days, minimum, and spent the entirety of it in combat. Scary, bloody, heart wrenching combat. He was a sniper, so you can imagine how personal the war was for him. As it was described to us, the war ended and they were given about 15 minutes to pack up once back at base and catch the last buses home. It was a scramble, but they made it just in time.

These guys hadn't been in civilization for a long time, had probably seen their best friends either shot or hit with shrapnel or even worse. They hadn't spoken to their families for well over a month. Parents had no idea if their sons were alive, where they were, or what their conditions were like. Soldiers just wanted to get home. After all that, and having about 15 minutes to catch the last bus, the last thing on their minds was the mud on their boots or the hair on their chins.

And yet, my buddy's brother after 50 days in combat was stopped by a military police officer and given a violation for all of the above. Apparently it was a scene, replete with yelling involving the words "war, combat, and Lebanon" on one side, and "rules, protocol, and tourists" on the other. Judge the situation for yourself.

Anyway, the reason I finally got around to posting this was because a good friend of mine just got busted up for having an unshaven face. The real story is that the MP was looking to give out a ticket, and for some reason he was chosen. He got off the bus, and with the MP no less than 50 feet away, one of them started pointing at him. They asked why he hadn't shaven, he said he had, and they gave him a ticket. Take a look at his face. This picture was taken by me about two hours after he got the ticket:

Just venting a little bit of frustration here. A button of mine fell off and I had to resew it with the only string I had at the time - it is blue. I better get some uniform beige string pronto!


Aviv said...

MP's are loathed among other jobnikim too. If there's anything I hated about digum it was shaving. I have dark hair and fair skin so even after I shave I still have a 5-o'clock shadow.

The story about the sniper is crazy but very believable. There's a lot of undue hardship incurred in the name of discipline.

To be fair - Discipline in the IDF has been slipping over the past few years. They say that under Bogey Ya'alon, you'd see military drivers at the Kiryah walking around in red sneakers, and mashakiyot tash (welfare officers) walking around with combat berets of all colors belonging to their respective boyfriends. I can't begin to tell you how many dress code violations I used to see on the train - and it really does reflect on the military as a whole.

Parents had no idea if their sons were alive,

As you know, in case of death or heavy injury they get told in person ASAP.

Rach said...

I've been in Israel 6 times (including for 6 months at one point) - I've never seen an MP before.

Maskil said...

The Military Police of most nations tend to be loathed by the rest of the armed forces (especially the combat soldiers). When doing national service in South Africa from the 70s to the 90s, however, I noticed that our MP’s tended to avoid confrontations with those from infantry and other combat units, especially those just returning from the Operational Area (“The Border”)!

MP’s are a necessary evil for any military service. They should, however, aspire to earn respect as well as loathing. I think the way this was done in the SADF was to put them through standard infantry basic training (as for all other NSM) and have them serve in the Operational Area in an infantry capacity before being posted to an MP station. MP’s were still generally disliked and avoided, but were accorded a grudging respect.

Anonymous said...

you're making progress: at least the most hated group in the military were the mp's and not the tzanchanim. you should tell your readers how they, the mp's, determine (not so scientifically) when one's hair is too long. of course it matters not if one was in the field for several weeks w/o any weekends off and hair does grow. then, after you've been confined to base for the oh not so scientific determination that one's hair was too long (2 wks usually) you can get nabbed again at the ....stop for the violation that got you confined to base for 2wks.

HesderBoy said...

Hilarious how you provided the propaganda pictures. Keep your head up, you're in our thoughts and bookmark folders!

Anonymous said...

I had my kumta stolen off me at the Afula tachana mercazit. 10 seconds later I saw like 3 Mem Tzadiks. Luckily I avoided them. That would have been great though...

Taller than a Hobbit said...

What's with the doodles on her gunstrap (middle picture)?

Israeli by Day said...

aviv - lots of those mashakiyot still wear whatever they want. In regards to parents not knowing about their kids being alive or not, you are correct, but just think about them waiting by the phone not knowing, every minute expecting the worst, every ring of the phone seemingly the dreaded news.

Rach - I never noticed them either until I had to start avoiding them!

Kirara - tons of jobnikim stitch designs onto everything, from belts to gun straps to hats. Flair I guess.

Mark Hafter said...

I'm about a month away from my enlistment date and as an Oleh Hadash myself, I've been reading your blog for a while now. First of all, I really enjoy it. Second of all, it's made me consider Golani as a good option for service. Third, I really enjoyed this article in particular.

I was at Haifa Lev Hamifratz a while ago and the MP's were stopping everybody in sight! I was surprised they didn't stop me (not a soldier yet, civillian clothes) just to bother me a little... I tried to give them a few good glares as they wrote up poor combat soldiers on their way home.

Red and blue - run far away.

Judith said...

1) Your unshaven friend doesn't look a day over his Bar Mitzvah. Are you sure he isn't supposed to be starting his first day of junior high school? :)

2)Maybe the MP's are like the Ticket Cops here in NY... They have a quota that they must fill. Once they do, they are presented with the much coveted cop car and a pay raise.

Taller than a Hobbit said...

It does make one wonder.

Esser Agaroth said...


I heard it was only a minority of soldiers who have NOT had any run ins with these guys.

Anonymous said...

hey bro your best blog yet!!! love and miss you bro! be safe!!!

Tim Curtiss said...

Back in my day, before going on liberty from the battalion, the Sergeant Major inspected us, of course, then warned us not to beat up any MP s who tried to give us citations. It seemed that this had been an ongoing problem and he was trying to put a stop to it.

So if an MP stops you, try beating him up.

Also, we did not need beard permission slips.

Someone in Gdud50 said... said...

Looking at the picture - the kid hasn't shaved for days. Although i agree it is a little too extreme to a give a violation for that.

Personally i've never been stopped by a MP, i always left the house/base like it should be (shaved, shined, tucked). Also, having a Tuedat lochem helps alot ^_____^

I hate those chukmak navy/airforce jobniks you see walking around with only a white shirt on, and pants over the boots/ white sneaker wearing.

Israeli by Day said...

Tim- thanks for the advice! I always wanted to beat up one of those kids.

Gdud50 - are you serious? Hasn't shaven in days? Those 3 black hairs? They spotted those tiny little things from 50 feet away? The only reason you can see them is because my camera's macro mode is so good. I didn't even see those in person!!!!

Someone in Gdud50 said...

Like i said it is a bit too far fetched to give shit for that, and sure i believe MP do random check at people to find something, if they don't see something from distance (like muddy boots).

But seriously, that kid has a (starting) sidebeard. That doesn't grow back in a day And if he was smart he would take it off more often.

Anonymous said...

Lucky for me - Ani lo histabchti - with the MPs.

I hated them though.

Ruanne said...

U.S. Army puts ups with those standards every waking hour of every day. Some sergeants make it the first order of the day at first formation, uniform/shaving inspection. You just learn to deal with it in garrison.

But then you go to Iraq. And it's not the MPs who are our uniform enforcers. It's the 40 and 50 year old Sergeants Major. Instead of doing something useful, like imparting the wisdom of their 20 years of service in some kind of a teaching role (that would make sense) they wander about on bases in Iraq, checking uniforms and haircuts. They will not let you EAT in the dining facility if you are sweaty or dirty. And don't give them that "I was just in firefight/IED attack and I'm lucky to be STANDING here!" Then you'll get gigged for disrespect and insubordination... SOME of these Sergeants Major have combat experience. Most are too old - when they were of operational age, there was no combat going on. Your average 3 year Army veteran has more combat time in than anybody over the age of 40. So nobody takes most of them seriously anymore...

Last time I was over there, they ordered us all to wear reflective belts at night, I guess so we wouldn't get hit by trucks and buses walking around on base at night. The order was collectively ignored, by the officers especially, so it didn't last. ;)

I could go on. But I won't. Every time you post something here, I just shake my head, it seems Army is Army. Don't matter whose Army you are in.

We don't like our MPs overly much either. But they basically just gig you for speeding on base, or being kicked out of a bar for disorderly conduct and dumped at the base gates by civilian police in handcuffs. Typical police stuff.

Ruanne said...

Oh, you reminded me of another funny story. This is a proper story, so it's long!!

In the U.S. Army, you can only have a beard for medical conditions, like bad heat rash or really chronic cases of ingrown hairs and razor burn. Ethnically, it is Black soldiers who usually have this problem, due to the texture of their hair. It's pretty common to see a Black guy in uniform with a very short trimmed beard, for that reason.

Anyways, me and my entire platoon were training at a different base in a different state for a few weeks. Being good jobniks, we were hanging out doing 8 to 5 every day, and drinking every night, while all the Infantry were crawling through some swamp in Louisiana, barred from alcohol for the duration. ;)

We had nice rental cars, and we'd drive into our worksite every morning and meet up in the parking lot before going inside together, as a platoon. This building was one of those super sensitive, DO NOT take a picture here. Well, our platoon cut-up was standing right in the parking lot, very visibly swinging his camera on its lanyard. Within minutes, the MPs came around, and began interrogating him about the camera. He said, "Hey, I'm sorry. I forgot!"

They asked him why he had the camera in the first place.

He said, "No shit. So my Lieutenant got a NO SHAVING profile, and he's WHITE! It's crazy. I guess he got some kind of rash. Anyways, since it's been four or five days, I HAD to take a picture of this, for posterity. I mean, who's ever heard of a WHITE guy with a shaving profile!"

Yes, he always talked like that. Even to really important people. Needless to say, the MPs didn't appreciate his attitude. Or his excuse. It was simply unbelievable. This soldier was UP to something, he'd be facing security charges, most likely. They called up somebody important on their walkie talkies, it was looking serious for our friend.

ON CUE, our LT pulled up, swaggered out of his car in his usual manner, and strolled up to the group, asking what was going on.

The MPs took one good look at the LT's face, looked at my friend again, looked back at the LT. They warned everyone very sternly to not bring cameras into the area in the future, and walked off shaking their heads. The story, so implausible, was clearly true.

Everyone gave the LT crap for his beard the rest of the week, even Navy officers, and insinuated unsanitary and X-rated causes for the rash... good times.

Israeli by Day said...

Ruanne - nice use of Israeli army lingo! "Jobnik". A real reader!

Man, the racial hilariousness of the human condition is so evident in the army, isn't it? Likewise in terms of stereotypes being broken, and ensuing funniness:

in the IDF, and from what I've heard about at least Vietnam-era US Army, the black people are given the M203 grenade launcher. Why? Because maybe you'll have to run over to get a better position in which to launch it, and our ethiopians are sick runners. Maybe.

Really though, it just makes for a great time teasing a white guy who gets the M203. I don't have any stories in particular, but yeah, Ruanne, I hear you.

And MP's suck. They're usually ugly girls.

the sabra said...

your friends brothers story is mishug!