Thursday, January 27, 2011

So Much for Command

You will not be going to the upcoming course makim. I am not sure what you were told when you arrived in Sayeret Tzanchanim. But as commander of this tzevet [team] I can tell you there was already a list of candidates well before you arrived.

With these words my commander closed the curtain on the goal I had of serving as a junior officer (a NCO, known in the IDF as a MaK or samal). A few days earlier I had brought the issue up with him so he would know of my interest in getting selected for the forthcoming NCO course (known colloquially as course makim). When he replied that others had already been preselected, I came back and gave him my reasons why I was an appropriate candidate for a track designed for soldiers whose precocious maturity and good soldiering skills allows them to skip the final two months of special-forces training.

While course makim is offered three times over a soldier’s service, the first go is often designed for soldiers the higher-ups see as future officer material. In special-forces training (that is, the sayerot/gadsar of each infantry brigade), soldiers who attend the first round of course makim miss the last two months of training. As this includes the especially rigorous final month of the fourteen month training, many of my peers view selection to early makim as extremely desirable. A subset righteously disagrees, insisting that a conscript cannot be considered a complete fighter without having overcome the last few intense weeks of training.

My own interest in this first round is grounded in the simple fact that if I attend a later round of course makim, I will have to add anywhere from six months to a year to my service. Since I am not willing to sign more time to attend the NCO course, my opportunity to attend the course and serve in a leadership position—and potentially to sign more time and continue in the army as a lieutenant – was dependent on doing course makim now. In other words, now that this first round is out of the picture, so is my dream of serving in command.

I did not fight my commander’s decision. I did not request to speak with his superior or try any of a hundred schemes that seasoned soldiers turn to when the army first says no. Why? The answer is that, in the short term, getting selected for course makim was as much about the recognition, about feeling appreciated, than anything else. Fundamentally, I want to serve as a junior officer so I can really influence others while transforming the responsibility I have in the army. I want to be selected, however, for the same reason one wants to be chosen for any task: the message selection sends that my superiors believe in me. Getting selected is empowering, an antidote to the constant feeling of under appreciation shared by many soldiers, especially older and experienced soldiers from overseas.

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