Friday, October 16, 2009
Erev Tov from the beautiful Kfar Tavor at Shoshana and Iftach Genez' house! Well I had hoped to blog immediately after Yom Sayarot but...that didn't happen. Since nobody said that we could not disclose any information I am gonna write it all down. First of all, the big news: I passed and now I have a tryout for the unit I wanted. The unit is called "the Unit" or more specifically Sayeret Matkal. The tryout, or gibush, is set to take place on November 8. Now, from the beginning. We got there at 3; actually, we all got there a little earlier. They called us over to the registration tin shack things and we handed in our invitation and got our numbers. We then wrote in permanent marker on our white shirts our numbers. My number was 59. Then we got in line at the medical tent and got our pulses checked and a general assessment (about 2 questions). I listed somewhere a while back on my medical report on the Kibbutz that I was allergic to dust. I'm not really, just a little bit. That was a stupid thing to do; all it did was make the army medical lackey suspicious of me. Fortunately the doctor he referred me to at the second set of tables was more understanding and wrote it off as Harta, bullshit. We then waited for a while in the tents that doubled at Shade tents and our dormitories for that night. We were all just milling around when a stout, unathletic 20-year-old came over and chose 10 of us. Eager to find out what we were to do we trotted after him. Our assignment was to open tuna...not even 20 minutes into Yom Sayarot and I was already the army's bitch. We took it in stride and even made fun out of it. One of the guys joked, "Pace yourself, chevre! It's all in your heads, keep opening!" After that there was some more waiting and then some more. There was a lot of waiting during Yom Sayarot and needless to say it was annoying. Eventually we went out to do the Bar-Or Test, or the newly modified version of it. It seems that in the last year or so they have only been doing to 2000-meter run and have left out the push-ups and sit-ups. I came in fifth in my heat out of about 90 other guys with a time of 7:28. I don't believe that it was only 2K because I typically do it a lot faster but then again it was hot and on a sandy surface. After this we assembled back on the main campgrounds and filled out our preferences of which units we wanted. Our choices were between "The Unit", Shayetet/Flotilla 13, and Hovlim (Navy Commanders). I put my first choice as Matkal/the Unit, second choice as Shayetet, and third was Hovlim. The rest of the evening was boring. We got stuff ready for the next day (stretchers, jerrycans, and other stuff), ate, and then went to bed. Bedtime was 7:50 pm, the earliest I've gone to bed in about 10 years. Nobody fell asleep for several reasons. The giant campgrounds light was left on all night, we were sleeping on the ground on the sand with rocks, and it was 7:50! Who goes to sleep at 7:50? After 2.5 hours of turning from side to side I finally fell asleep. We were woken up at 4:00 am but I actually got up, along with some other guys, at 3:30. It gave me some time to get dressed, pee, wash my face, and stretch out and warm up a bit. At 4:07 we were to be in formation and from there we went over to another area of the campgrounds to eat a quick breakfast of chocolate spread on bread and tea. The head doctor of Yom Sayarot then came out and informed us that if anyone did not feel good or wanted to leave, then this would be his last chance to leave and still be given another chance to try out in March or April. At the last second, one guy raised his hand and decided to leave and was then followed by a few other guys. After that we were split into 20-25 groups with about 13-15 guys in each. I was in group #9. We put our valuables (cell phone, wallet, etc.) in the group's "valuables bag" and then, with all our equipment, set out to the training grounds. The beginning of the end of our muscles took place at the sand dunes. We got there, unloaded equipment, and almost immediately started sprints. We started at the top of the dune, and ran in a circular path. The path was probably about 80 meters. After several sprints they said that only the first 8 would be listed. Then after about 10 minutes of that they went down to the first 7. Then 6. Then 5. The hardest part about the sprints was that we would get back completely breathless and they would say, "Tze" or "go!" No break, no nothing. The incline in the sand was also pretty difficult. I don't exactly remember the order of all the drills but after the sprints we got a 7 minute break. Then we had 8 minutes to fill up the sand bags with sand. They were probably something like 15 kilograms, or 33 lbs. We then started to run in the same track as before, but this time with the sandbags and without stopping. After about 20 minutes we stopped. I was one of the leaders in my group with about 35 laps. We also did an exercise with the stretcher. We loaded the stretcher with 4 bags of sand and the first four to arrive would pick up the stretcher and run the next lap with the weighted stretcher. The following three would carry bags of sand. Obviously it was preferred to be carrying the stretcher. I did fairly well on this exercise since I was carrying the stretcher a lot and often arrived first. One thing that I think really improved my standing with the commanders was that when my buddy next to me on the stretcher was having a lot of trouble getting up the incline I gave him some crucial, non-bullshit encouragement and he picked up the pace. After the running exercises each person dug a hole in the sand one meter width, one meter depth, and as long as possible. After this drill, which was not actually too difficult it just wears out your back, we sat in a circle in front of the commanders and gave a little background: where we are from, what we studied in high school, and where we hope to go in the army. There were about 30 Americans at Yom Sayarot from the program Garin Tzabar. There were 3-4 Americans in my group and they seemed to be pretty good guys. One of them also got an invitation to Gibush Matkal. After all the physical assessments we headed back to the campgrounds with the equipment and filled out what is called a Sociometric test (Sotziometri). This is where you rank everyone in your group according to their performance. The best guy would be number 1 and the worst would be highest number of all the people in your group (in mine it was 13). Only 1 guy dropped out in my group and there were groups where 2-3 dropped out which puts the ending number of guys at about 350 (we started with about 400). After the Sociometric, we ate and then waited about 2-3 hours for results. I should give time frames for the events of the day. We started the drills at about 5:00 am and finished at about 8:30 am. At about 9:30 we ate and at about 11:30-12:00 we got the results. Everyone was visibly tense and extremely nervous/excited as some high-ranking officer came out to give us the results. He gave a nice speech about how we are the future of Tzahal and that whether or not we get through to the next rounds, all of us are the elite of the combat units and we will be the next generation of officers and our roles are so important. Without specifying which group the numbers belonged to he told the first group to go to the tent behind him to and to his right. 4, 11, 24, 37, 44, 54...HOLY SHIT, is he gonna skip me?!?! 59. I was ecstatic but I still was not sure whether I had gotten into the gibush for matkal. As we assembled in the tent our suspicions were confirmed as we saw several of the stronger guys from the group. The officer that called our numbers entered the tent a few minutes later and proceeded to congratulate us and tell us that we received gibush matkal. He then reminded us that there is still a long way to go until our position in "the Unit" is secure. We have the incredibly grueling Gibush at Nitzanim in the south on November 8 that will last about 5 days during which they will obliterate us mentally and physically. If you are accepted after this, which in and of itself is an extraordinary feat, you then have an 18 month exhausting Maslul, or training track/path to get through. Even after this there are still those who drop out from injury or just from burn-out. The gibush is incredibly difficult. Of the 400 who start (all of whom are in good shape) only about 200 finish. Of the 200 remaining, 20 are taken to Matkal, 20 to Shaldag (airforce commandos), and 20 are put on the "waiting list" of Matkal. This of course is hearsay from the forums I've been reading online in Hebrew. For now, the best preparation I can do is stay focused, keep up on my rigorous workout schedule, and not stress too much. For now, it should be plenty.