Sunday, February 14, 2010

Upholding the LAW

Ethiopians get the grenade launcher, smart, responsible kids the radio, silent types are made sharpshooters and the aggressive grunts—or as they see themselves, the soldiers’ soldier—are awarded the light machine gun. Those weapons (and stereotypes!) are just a sampling of the weapons and tasks divvied up near the end of basic training among the members of an Israeli army platoon. In the weeks leading up to the announcement of who gets what weapon, guys speculate to no end. Most guys covet the sharpshooter position, both for the training involved and what it says about past performance on the shooting range. Yet there are more guys than spots, lending a competitive, even anxious, edge between otherwise affable bunkmates.

I was not overjoyed when my commanders selected me to train with the anti-tank weapon. Having seen so many other lone soldiers named sharpshooters, I had been hoping for the same position. My commander obviously disagreed. I did not help my case when in a private discussion, I informed him that the anti-tank weapon was my least preferred choice. My words were probably all he needed to hand me the weapon with the implicit challenge that I succeed with even the task I least desired. A good life lesson, if nothing else.

Further consolation came when I discovered that the weapon is used by most armies around the world. While it may be good to know thy (potential) enemy, it also means I could very well find employment in the Finnish or Chinese armed forces if things take an unexpected nosedive in the IDF. I also took strength from the idea that I was being asked to take down a tank with only the flimsy weapon I was training with. While it sure beats David’s sling, the comparative armor and firepower of modern tanks means I will not be on much better terms than when my ancestor faced off against Goliath on a grassy plain thirty miles north of my base.

The officer charged with running us ragged for the week of “advanced weapons training” may have had similar doubts about the effectiveness of my anti-tank weapon. Every drill session wrapped up with a command to get to our weapons, placed twenty yards away, by rolling on the ground some thirty times. The dizziness by the end is nauseating and makes standing, let alone assuming the correct firing position, nigh impossible. I wondered if perhaps he was having us simulate the vertigo we may experience if we are ever asked to go mano-a-mano against a modern fighting vehicle.


  1. Don't be bummed about the anti-tank weapon (makach?). I was a radio man and found the course to be useless, everyone ends up learning just as much as you do about the radio eventually. It's much more practical to learn a new weapon, and a really powerful one at that. I'm sure you will master it. Plus, you will work even harder with your metal sights and be a better shooter than the sharpshooters! There is no better feeling than having a sharpshooter look at you with scorn/admiration when you pop one of his balloons from 200 yards in a 'wet' drill.

  2. the vertigo practice doesnt sound very fun