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.
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!