Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Professional Approach: Week 2

The armed forces of every country can take almost any young male civilian and turn him into a soldier with all the right reflexes and attitudes in only a few weeks. Their recruits usually have no more than twenty years' experience of the world, most of it as children, while the armies have had all of history to practice and perfect their technique.
Gwynne Dyer, War

Professionalism, our officer preaches, must be our relentless goal. I returned for my second week as excited to return to the army as fulfill my officer's ambition. Waiting for me on Monday was the Bar-Or, the standard IDF physical fitness test that consists of push-ups, sit-ups and a 2k run. No one was more surprised than yours truly when I notched the top score on the test, maxing out on the push-ups (75, after which they tell you to stop) and sit-ups (85, same as previous) and running under seven minutes in the 2k.

The next test of the week was no easier. Following a lengthy series of classes on first aid, everyone sat for a written quiz and then was tested with a live demonstration of applying what we had learned. I doubt any of the soldiers had ever paid half as much attention to a teacher as they did to the medic who taught us the first aid course. The Hebrew was overwhelming for me at times but the instructor helped me decode the written test and I finished with a grade only a step behind my peers.

Everyone in my platoon had room to improve on the next challenge of the week, the army obstacle course that we were introduced to early one morning. The course consists of a dozen stages that must be jumped, climbed, crawled or balanced past--all this, no less, with gun, helmet and weighted vest. A onetime commando who has made quite a reputation for himself in politics, Ehud Barak, holds the course record. If I want to challenge his time I am going to have to master the rope climb and balance beam, two of the obstacles that have seen me fall flat on my face more than once.

Fitness and field knowledge like first aid are two of the three foundations for any infantry soldier. The third is shooting, and my officer is adamant that like any professional, we must thoroughly master everything that relates to a bullet hitting its target. I have never been into guns and cannot claim to find the science of ballistics overly fascinating. Yet I appreciate the wisdom of my officer's words and recognize that this is the profession I have chosen to make my own for the foreseeable future. Recognizing does not guarentee success, of course, and after one week my poor results did little except earn extra attention from the shooting instructor. The attention had its vicarious benefit as our instructor is beautiful, a Sarah Michelle Gellar with sniper training. Falling for one's shooting instructor is supposedly part of the IDF experience, though perhaps it is not what my officer had in mind when he instructed us to approach our training with the utmost professionalism.

Last summer I missed a chance to hang in Beijing with Ziggy Marley, one of the legendary reggae star's musical sons, when I passed on a jam session the reggae singer held during the Olympics. This week I missed Ziggy for the second time, when out of nowhere he showed up at our base to acknowledge a donation he made to the Nachal Brigade! My friends were working in the kitchen when Ziggy strolled up in a modified Nachal uniform, outfitted with a tag depicting a roaring Lion of Judah-and I would venture to guess, a marijuana leaf! What a rock-star! And to think, since Beijing one of his songs has been one of my go-to running tunes as I prepped for the IDF.

1 comment:

  1. WHAT?! That's nuts (about Ziggy).