Saturday, March 20, 2010
Since my last post I have moved from the comfortable confines of my base close to home in the North to the relatively luxurious base of the Tzanchanim (Paratroopers) in the South in Beer Sheva. The main topic of this week's blog is the Gibush for the Special Forces attached to the Paratroopers that I went through this past week.
Despite the fact that I'm getting better at the gibushes and I think I'm starting to understand the way they work, I never want to have to do one again. The intensity of Gibush is something that is not matched by any other thing in the army except for war. This may be simply naive since I have not experienced anything else in the army but I think I'm accurate in my stating so. The reason I say this is because although there are more physically challenging activities in basic training and so on, and drills and that are more difficult than those of the Gibush, you are never really competing with your friends in the rest of your service. Gibush is a cut-throat, every-man-for-himself kind of competition that, while you still manage to make friends, you are constantly on your toes. In this Gibush, we woke up at 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning (Monday night) and went out to start the Gibush. As expected, we crawled a lot, sprinted a lot, carried heavy loads up steep inclines, and were belittled and criticized by our commanders. They continued to destroy us during the day with petty breaks in between for small mental drills or to swallow water. I say "swallow" water because you would have literally open up your throat and let the water fall down in order to drink it all in the allotted time. The elbow pads and knee pads given to us only helped in the slightest and as the day grew older, the cuts on our elbows and knees grew wider. By dusk, I was not doing so well in one of the rounds of crawling and had to drag myself along the ground since it had become too difficult to use my legs in the drills. Currently there are several large, purple spots on my thighs as a result of the beating from the rocks on the ground during the crawling. At night we were actually granted a generous 8 hours of sleep only interrupted by 25 minutes of guard duty each. Of course, we were sleeping in 2-man pup tents outside so it wasn't that comfortable, but when you're that exhausted you can sleep just about anywhere. The second and last day was a little bit less challenging physically than the first day. This was because they could not abuse us to much or else there would be nobody left in the group. There were many more mental activities and group puzzles. That night (Wednesday night) we were left in suspense as to whether there would be more physical testing the following day and I actually remember dreaming that night that they woke us up and made us go on a forced march! Of course they didn't wake us up in the middle of the night and the next morning we packed up our tents and equipment, returned to base, and waited for our interviews. Although structurally similar to Gibush Matkal, Gibush Yachatiot (as it is called) was different and unique for several reasons. One reason is that it is only 2 days; the implication of its length is both negative and positive. The positive part is that it is only 2 days and that's not so bad. The negative is that it's only 2 days and that means the testers only have 2 days to break you down and cull the best of the group. Another difference is that Gibush Matkal was on sand and this Gibush was on hilly terrain with lots of dirt and rocks. Dirt and rocks are not a good surface to crawl on; trust me on this one. This gibush in my opinion was physically much harder than Gibush Matkal. Everybody trying out is already a soldier so the testers have a little more leeway in their drills and punishments.
As I said earlier, despite the fact that I never want to participate in other gibush, I have gotten better at them. In this gibush, I was not as timid with my Hebrew. More often than not I was offering advice on how to solve a problem, or offering up a topic for discussion. We had to give talks on something that interests us and I (naturally) gave a 2-minute talk on avocados. One of the testers at the end actually said he was very interested in my talk and I think I did right in picking this topic because it was completely out of the ordinary and nobody was expecting it. Physically I was also a lot better of this time. Despite the fact that I was sick before this gibush, I sort of threw caution to the wind. I was a lot more generous with enduring wounds and during crawling flung myself left and right like a madman despite the fact that it was bruising my legs and stomach and arms. My attitude of semi-indifference within the army proved effective in the gibush. In order to be a good soldier it is necessary to be somewhat of an automaton, listening to and doing everything your commanders say to you. My pain and agony in the gibush were no longer relevant. What was relevant was crawling and running toward where they instructed me. When you adopted this attitude everything becomes easier. Not whining or complaining to the other guys was also paramount. When you hear other guys making a fuss but you yourself stay quiet, it empowers you to a certain degree. On Monday we get the results of the gibush and then are divided up into our respective brigades or companies. Hopefully the news will be positive. Arielle came up this weekend and it was good to see her. Tomorrow I have a day off to go get my passport from the Interior Ministry and do not have to be back on base until 8 p.m. I'm looking forward to this week and to finally getting started with official basic training!