Friday, March 12, 2010

Testing Out of Basic

Basic training, and any course of any length in the IDF, concludes with comprehensive exams testing soldiers grasp of the material. Known as the Bochan 05 (basic training is certified as level 05, with more challenging training courses like special forces identified with higher numbers), the exam stamps a soldier as a trained infantry fighter, a locham in the IDF, with a basic level of combat fitness and a practical grasp of weapon systems, first aid, and how to respond to a NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) crisis.

Passing, rather than receiving a glossy grade, is what counts. This comes as a relief to yours truly because few of the past month's courses have left a deep imprint in my memory. I mostly know what to do when it comes to the hands-on material. But all the Hebrew teaching has left my mind a tad waterlogged so that the minutiae of responding to a nerve attack or operating an old-school military radio set is lost on me. And don't get me started on the tragicomic written test: Save for the queries on Israeli military history, I mostly guessed my way through the multiple choice questions. My test grades, in short, are nothing to write home about.

While my grades on the Bochan 05 were not very pretty, I passed the collection of written and hands-on tests with flying colors. The same could not be said about the Bochan Maslul, the IDF obstacle course that I had yet to complete in the required time when the week began. Twice in the last few weeks my unit had made a go at the course. Both times I was stopped cold by a six foot wall, failing to vault over the stolid barrier as is necessary (as previously noted here). Having failed to crack the required passing time of 10:30 minutes, I knew I had to solve my issues with the wall post-haste.

My commanders were kind enough to supply me with the antidote to my troubles with the wall. Twice over the last week they took me aside and, for over an hour each time, had me practice vaulting over the wall. They fed me advice, shared all the mental tricks they could, and kept me going till I was past collapse, my body like a ragged doll after running and jumping into (few of my practice jumps were successful) the wall dozens of times. The last practice ended without me clearing the wall without help, leaving the question unanswered whether I could tackle the monster the next time I went at the course.

Answered or not, I returned to the course site this week. Helmet secure, gun in place, vest as tight as possible, I told myself the third time would be--had to be--the charm. The course consists of three loops, with the middle section passing through parallel and monkey bars, a rope climb, balance beam, ditches, crawls and more. The very first obstacle is, of course, the wall. And so when I flew over the barrier, clearing the cement bugbear with a good meter to spare, the course was mine. A few stumbles later and I finished in a time of 8:40, only an average time for my unit (three guys in my platoon posted times under 7:30) yet a time that easily passes the requirement.

And so now I am a locham, a fighter, warrior even depending on your choice of translation. My officer told us months ago, on our first week of basic, that training for my unit would only start once we were lohamim (see here). And so now it all begins...

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