Monday, April 5, 2010

Life after Sayeret

So much to write yet so little time. It's 11:50 pm and I have to get up tomorrow at 5:10 am to catch the train down to Be'er Sheva so much to my dismay (I have a lot to tell) I will have to be brief in this entry. In my previous blog two weeks ago I was about to find out where I would be spending the rest of my service (that is to say, in which battalion). We got back to base and everyone was quite apprehensive to say the least. The "ceremony" in which everyone is sorted into their respective battalions is known in Hebrew as "Misdar D'maot" although it's formal name is "Misdar Haluka". Misdar D'maot can roughly be translated as the "tears ceremony" and Misdar Haluka as the "sorting or dividing ceremony". They call it the tears ceremony because a lot of soldiers who hoped or expected to get to the Special Units do not, to their surprise oftentimes, make it to those units. What follows after their name is called from one of the regular battalion's lists are usually tears, therefore giving the event its name. I, unfortunately, turned out to be one of the people who expected to get to the Special Forces and was caught unexpectedly when I heard my name under the 2nd platoon in the 202nd battalion. As I recall, I was fetching a tissue from my bag because my nose had just started to bleed when they called my name. It was a rather ominous occurrence and the next 2 days were tough. I questioned whether the army was worth it, and how I would explain to a lot of people that I did not get to Special Forces. I don't want to spend too much time dissecting the details of the outcome of the Gibush but for my peace of mind, indulge me. There were definitely some aspects of the Gibush where I was not the strongest in my group and even instances where I was among the weaker in my group. However, that being said, for the amount of people that got in to Special Forces from all the guys who finished I definitely should have been among them. I tormented myself for days after the Gibush with questions pertaining to my not being accepted. I've come to several conclusions. I think that the testers made a mistake my not taking me. My statement comes not out of emotion but rather out of logic. If they didn't take me because I wasn't good in some parts of the Gibush (perhaps the crawling), there were always guys worse than me and I more than made up for it in other physical areas. If they didn't take me because of the discussions and mental challenges well then they did not measure us accurately. Some mental drills simply became a yelling match between who could voice their opinion the loudest. This was not a rational way to test who is most "mentally" fit for SF. Also, I contributed some of the most insightful comments in the debates and demonstrated a wide-range of knowledge in the talks we had to give on a specific topic. There have also been some other reasons that have arisen in my head or that others have suggested as possible explanations for my not being accepted. It is possible that there is a "quota" of foreigners the army wants to take into SF and I did not make it this time. Another explanation that some have told me is that they also want to keep some quality guys in the battalion. In any case, the best thing to do at this point is to shake it off and be the best in the "gdud" or battalion.

The melancholy and anger expressed in the previous paragraph dissolved about 1.5 weeks ago. After a few days getting used to my new surroundings in the 202nd Battalion I realized that the stigmas about the battalions are not accurate. The guys in my squad are great guys and I get along with all of them really well. Most of them also seem to be fairly motivated and want to be there; after all, we still are in Tzanchanim (the paratroopers) and everyone here had to be accepted from a Gibush. In addition to the guys, my commanders and commanding officers are fantastic. My squad commander, Paz, is a quiet and friendly son of an agricultural worker and teacher from the North. He is patient yet expects a lot. Our staff sergeant is a complete bad-ass. He is probably about 6 foot 1 inches and weights between 200-240. He speaks to us only when he has to and he demands our attention whenever he does. The way he speaks is quite Tachlis (Hebrew for "straight to the point) yet it is always compact with meaning and tact. A few days ago he was telling us about what our experience is going to be like. It was more or less along the lines of, "I am going to destroy and break all of you. You will all suffer a lot. But you won't suffer without a purpose. I'm not going to break you down because I'm bored or anything like that. I'm doing it because I want you all to be the best soldiers that you can possible be." In addition, he straightened us out as to our present jolly feeling toward one another. "You all think you're buddy-buddy here on the base and that you get along great and are best of friends. The truth of the matter is that when you get out into the Shetach (wilderness) for training, there won't be any beds or showers or hot food or air-conditioning. That's when you'll see who your real friends are and that's where you'll be measured."

These past 2 weeks have truly measured my ability to adapt to Plan B. I think I succeeded. One of the most valuable things I've learned about myself from this let-down was that even after my SF dream was shot down and my ego was torn to shreds, I trekked on and it is still worth it.

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