Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ending Phase Two, Helicopters & Tracers

Late April brought an end to the rigorous phase of training I have been involved in since leaving the Nachal Brigade in early March. Our training concluded with three intense days of little sleep in the wilderness, testing all the skills we had learned over the past two months. While there are many stories from the three days worth telling, the most memorable moments came at the very start and end of the three day exercise.

The exercise began when my team boarded a helicopter for the brief ride into simulated enemy territory. We had spent days preparing for this exercise, not to mention all the training of the last two months. Nonetheless, the almost tangible excitement during the ride was due to the helicopter itself. It was my first time in the military aboard a helicopter. Everything about the way it stepped into the air and took off into the inky night sky caught my attention. The memory that still lingers, however, is the image of the spinning propellers, which struck me as shards of broken glass, dangerous musical notes spinning in the midnight wind.

The exercise ended with a final push at dawn to the peak of the highest hill in our training area. Weighed down by a 90 pound pack, I struggled along with my team to carry our "wounded" peer laid out on a stretcher up the treacherous slope. For much of the ascent I grabbed the hand of one of the guys under the stretcher and tried to keep him moving with my own forward movement. Struggling for every inch of ground, we finally made it to the summit. Set down the stretcher and form a U, a senior officer cried out. And then following orders, everyone fired red tracer bullets into the breaking dawn as our officers boomed out that this two month round of training had come to a close!

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