Friday, February 18, 2011

Training Nutcrackers

It was a week of standing in lines, moving arms and legs on command like a row of pigeonholed marionettes. Some lines were for LoZ (lohama ze'irah, close combat) training, drills designed to teach how to fight in the close urban settings that define most modern warfare. Other lines were for Krav Maga, daily sessions devoted to leaving us with some idea how to restrain and arrest suspects. A final line was somewhat anticlimactic, relearning how to swing a gun like a soldier on parade for a ceremony held at week’s end for the arrival of a new senior officer.

All three drills came down to the same idea, standing in rows and mastering how to position the body on command, arms, legs, and rifle in the correct position. Each exercise had some instructor frothing at the mouth as he lambasted our lame attempts to get the position right. I staved off boredom at times by imagining what would happen if the instructors, dress or particular drills were suddenly switched up, so one second we would be rehearsing our parade drills in Krav Maga attire and the next we would be wearing proper dress uniforms while letting loose a stream of bullets in an intensive bit of Loz training.

The best memory from the week came when all the lines were thrown asunder. The final Krav Maga session set us up into two opposing groups of seven soldiers each. In full protective gear—hockey masks, punching gloves, and the unwieldy foam girdles we slap on our chests and backs—the two groups were sent at each other. Theoretically one group was supposed to be soldiers trying to arrest a particular member of the opposing group, playing adversaries whose job was to resist arrest by any means possible. The reality was a volcanic explosion of violence. The inability to recognize your fellow group members through the protective gear meant that within seconds everyone was swinging and grabbing at everyone else. One can only hope there was little practical military technique to be learned. As far as I am concerned, the drill was designed to entertain our commanders and teach us how to succeed in a drunken brawl.

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