Monday, June 27, 2011

To be or not to be (an officer)

(Pictures of me with my Sargeant's Stripes!)
Good evening, world! Since the last time I wrote I finished commanders' course, moved back to my battalion, entered and finished my first job as a squad commander (or NCO), and am now going home (US) for a 2-week vacation. Commanders' course, as much as everyone complained, turned out to be a good course in my opinion. The course deals with weapons, different kinds of warfare tactics including jungle, urban, and open warfare, and leadership skills. As in most things in the army most of the graduates of the course will tell you that it's all bullshit and you don't really learn anything. Those of you who have been following this blog long enough will know how I feel about the genius and well-thought out opinions of the regular infantry soldier and how much I value their pessimism toward life (I'm being sarcastic). Commanders' Course endowed me with a sense of confidence that I could successfully command a squad of soldiers and handle the tasks thrown at me as part of the job. After the course, which ended on May 12, I went back to 202 (my battalion) which was then stationed in the Golan Heights at the base El Fouran. When all of us graduates of the course arrived at the base on Sunday morning, we found almost nobody there. It turned out that the entire battalion had been summoned as back-up to the Syrian border to deal with protests coming from Palestinian refugees from across the border. Eventually we each had our conversations with the Battalion Commander. I took three things away from that conversation. The Battalion Commander is a very serious guy, I would be going into the Maslul as a commander (the Maslul is the company of soldiers who just finished their training and entered the battalion recently), and that the CO (battalion commander) wanted me to go out to Officers' course in August.
The subject of officers' school is one I have been pondering for about 6 months now. On the one hand, I was honored that the CO wanted to send me out so early to officers' school but on the other I wasn't sure I really wanted it. At the time I was so taken aback that they were willing to send me out so early that I responded enthusiastically toward the idea. My company commander asked me a few weeks ago whether I want to go out to officers' school in August or November to which I told him I would prefer the later date in order to think about officers' some more. Presently I am placed as a Commander with the new recruits. I will be receiving a squad under my command a few weeks after I come back from the States. This will be completely different than the last job I had since these are not experienced soldiers -- they have virtually no military experience and I set the example for them and teach them everything. It's an extraordinary responsibility and I am very much looking forward to shaping part of the next generation of the IDF.
With regards to the subject of officers' school. I think the biggest problem I have with it is that I would have to sign on another 16 months of service. While relative to everything 16 months is not that much, when you analyze the little thorns that are twisted into that bundle of time things look different. All the Sundays when you have to deal with coming back to the army in the overcrowded train. All the weeks spent in the wilderness walking 15 kilometers then plopping down with your heavy bag trying to catch 20 minutes of sleep but freezing to death from your sweat that's turned to ice. All the friends you lose touch with and the isolation that the army thrusts upon you. These are only a few of the things that worry me about officers' course. Now the positives. I always wanted to get into a special forces unit and this could sort of be its replacement. Officers' course is extraordinarily difficult mentally and physically and you learn a tremendous amount about yourself and the army system. Also, many of my friends and family have told me they believe I would be a good officer and that it would be a great opportunity for me that would serve me well for the rest of my life. From the Zionist perspective, I think this would be the biggest donation of myself to the army. The army needs officers and while there are many lone soldiers in Israel, very few of them stick it out for an extra 16 months. The funny thing about my deliberation on the matter is that one day I will be absolutely 100% for signing on and feel very passionately about it and the next I just wanna finish my 30 months of mandatory service and throw in the towel. Either way, the next 2 weeks are for resting and getting in shape for my next job. The best advice I have for myself is to take it slow, don't get too excited in either direction, and keep thinking clearly.

1 comment:

J-Tours said...

Ben - being a soldier in the IDF is very important and satisfying. Being an officer is also rewarding both while you are still in the regular service and in later civilian life. The fact is that officers succeed more than others, get better jobs and are wanted by the public for all jobs. Some of my kids were officers and the civilian bosses they worked for (in the USA too) gave them more responsible jobs because "Israeli commanders always succeed" Whatever you decide - behatslacha. Yoel