Herbie, Where Have You Been?

Merkava III

Shalom boys and girls, it has been some time since my last entry. To be honest, I haven’t thought to much about the blog because of everything that has happened and continues to happen to me. Just as a warning, if I sound bitter in the entry, well it’s probably because I am. My string of bad luck with this army has continued. Here we go:

It has been exactly 25 days since I reported to the Shirion base. When I first reported it was extremely overwhelming. The hebrew was way over my head as everyone speaks rather fast. I thought Mikveh Alon was a shock at first, this was much more of a shock. It was similar to having culture shock all over again. I was the only American, which was more or less expected, and I was almost 5 years older than everyone, also expected. I’m not going to get into the details of each day, as they were that exciting, but I will discuss the major events that occurred, in only three days. Yes sir, three days!

After arriving late Sunday night, we ate something and went to bed. The next morning we had to be in formation around 6 a.m. I woke up, got outside, and there was no one there. Guys showed up late, which would become a recurring theme of my three days. Not much really happened those fews days. We had to fill out a lot of forms, which was a struggle for me, but my commanders helped me out. They were all great. Meals were lonely. I felt like an outcast. When I did try to use hebrew, most people would just try and speak English for the most part. After doing a bunch of nonsense, every new soldier was brought into the gym and they called out names. They were splitting up everyone into their respective units, the 188 or the 401. The 188 unit, uses the Merkava 3 tank. The 401 uses the Merkava 4. The Merkava 4 is a brand new tank, and probably the best tank in the world. I personally didn’t care which unit I was assigned to, I figured, a tank is a tank, as long as it’s not from WWII then I’m good.

Merkava IV

I got into the 401 unit. I figured it was pretty cool, but it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. That was pretty much the excitement of day 1, until, after dinner, I was told to go see the מ’פ (Commander of my entire company). I had no idea what it was about, so I was pretty intrigued. When I got into his office, I sat down, and he asked me (in Hebrew) how everything was going. I said fine, but that the hebrew was difficult, but that with time I would get it down. We talked for about 20 minutes, and he told me how proud he was to have someone like myself come to Israel to fight, someone who left everything behind in America. He told me to keep speaking Hebrew and that if I needed anything, to let him know. An extremely nice guy. I came away from the meeting feeling much better. i figured it was my first week, and things would only get better with time. I thought back to my first few days of Mikveh, and they were pretty crappy as well, but much different. After the meeting, I went back to my platoon and we didn’t do much the rest of the night.

The next day was similar. Filled out some forms. Didn’t understand them. Got help. Ate food. Lonely. Met a few good guys. Sat in the classroom to go over very basic things for new soldiers. Then in the afternoon, I was pulled out of the platoon to go and speak with one of the Officers for the entire 401. He was higher up than the מ’פ. When I walked into his officer, I had to salute him. I’m going to get off topic for a quick second, but Israeli soldiers, including myself, can’t salute for anything. Everyone does it differently. It’s an afterthought, and mostly everyone looks sloppy and like they have no clue what to do when it’s necessary to salute. I don’t understand it. Israelis don’t salute as much as in the U.S. military, but if you’re going to do something, do it right.

Anyway, as I got into the office, the Officer asked me how it was going and what was wrong. I basically told him the same thing as the מ’פ, the Hebrew was hard, but that I knew I could figure it out and that I wanted to be there. As soon as he started talking I could tell he just didn’t want to deal with me. He said that in tanks, you have to be essentially fluent in hebrew, because of all of the communicating that goes on in a tank, as well as dealing with a machine that is entirely in Hebrew. I told the Officer that I wanted a chance to prove myself, but he immediately told me that in the next day or so he was going to send me back to the bakom, to possibly go to another unit or something else. I left the office distraught. I absolutely couldn’t believe it. It seems like nothing seems to work out for me in the army. Not one thing. I was crushed. I figured my time in the army was pretty much over. i had just wasted a year of my life. I immediately started to blame myself. I should’ve studied harder. I was pissed. Why can’t I do this. I have friends in infantry who speak no hebrew and they are fine. Why can’t I just be there, and they would give me time to learn the language. I couldn’t believe that Shirion gave up on me after two days. TWO DAYS!

The rest of the day, and the following day were terrible. I was depressed. I felt like crying. It sucked. I had failed before I even had a chance. On Wednesday, day 3, I asked my commander if I was being sent home. He said no, so I figured they had changed their minds. I was ready. I was going to wake up early every morning to study. I was ready to go. Later in the day I talked to my מ’מ, the commander of the platoon). He told me to just work hard and that he knew it was hard, but to give it a shot. He seemed to be on my side.

At night, we had Krav Maga. I was really excited. Finally something physical to do. As we were just starting and running around, my commander called me over. He said follow me. I immediately knew I was going home. “I’m getting kicked out, aren’t I?” I asked. “It’s not that you’re getting kicked out, it’s just that your hebrew isn’t good enough.” Basically, I was kicked out. It sucked. I never thought enlisting in the army would be so difficult. I really didn’t. I was taking a bus back to the bakom at 3 a.m., so I was going back to my room, to give back the gear that I had gotten while on base and to go to sleep. After giving everything back, I talked to my commander, in English. I told him my story and that all I wanted to do was be a warrior and fight for Israel. I told him about myself and when I told him my age he was shocked. He thought I was 18. I’m older than him. I am older than all of the commanders and a majority of the officers. Which is pretty funny. He turned out to be a great guy. He told me that my commanders, and both my officers fought for me to stay, but that in the end, the higher up guy just didn’t want me around. He told me about an American he had in the last draft who spoke a little better than me, but that they worked with and gave a dictionary with tank terminology to and now he is a driver in tanks. I just don’t get why they wouldn’t work with me.

At 3 in the morning I woke up and boarded a bus to go to the bakom. As I was sitting there my former מ’פ walked on and came up to me and shook my hand and told me good luck and that he was sorry and that I was a great man. It’s a shame I didn’t get a chance to stay, my commanders and officers were absolutely great guys and it would’ve been nice getting to really know them after my training. When the bus started moving, I had about a 4 hour ride back to Tel-Aviv, so I passed out.

Everything else to come in another post. Probably will do it tomorrow.

Categories: Army

The Past Two Weeks in a Nutshell

I haven’t gotten around to writing all that much the last two weeks, mostly because writing about Mikveh Alon is just extremely boring. Most of the days in Mikveh were spent wasting time, “get busy waiting” as my friend Doc likes to say. Anyway, I’m now finished with Mikveh. The final week consisted of just the combat soldiers, which was very nice. A bunch of my friends left for their jobs and they were missed, but as a whole, it was nice getting rid of a lot of the idiots.

During the second to last week, we visited a combat base in the North and saw the border of Syria where there was a huge battle during the Yom Kippur War. It is truly amazing to think that Israel is able to overcome so much when they are surrounded by their enemies. Also during the week we had a sports day, which included basketball, soccer, a long jump competition and a good Krav Maga lesson.

My final week, I had to go to a military hospital to get make my 72 profile official. I met with some guy, not a doctor, and tried my best to argue with him to give me an 82 profile so I could do Nahal. I argued and argued and just asked him for a reason why I can’t do combat with my eyes. I got nothing out of him. He basically said, the book says people with your eyesight can’t, so you can’t. I left his office pretty pissed off.

My graduation ceremony was that Monday, so all of Monday we practiced marching and everything for it. It was extremely hot and pretty boring. Around 6 p.m., we had the ceremony. It was nice. A lot of soldiers.

The following day, we went to the Bakom (I.D.F. Headquarters) to find out where we were going in the army. It was an evening where some people were thrilled, while others weren’t. I more or less knew that I would be going to Shiryon. I hadn’t decided whether I would try to fight it or not.

A lot of guys were saying how they would go to jail rather than go to Shiryon and blah blah. Basically, no one wants Shiryon. I’m not totally sure why, to be honest. Yes, I would prefer to go into Infantry because that’s what I came to Israel to do, and I did think about refusing to go to Shiryon to see what would happen. However, I don’t think I was ever too serious about it. My thing with Shiryon is I didn’t want to be confined to a tank, but considering that before I had a 64 profile and wasn’t combat eligible, I will take it and I’m sure I will have a great time. I hear great things about the people and the training.

While everyone was waiting to get called into an office to find out the unit they were going to, people were already complaining about the possibility of not getting their first choice. Guys kept shitting (sorry for the language) on Shiryon and to be honest it started to piss me off. A lot of the guys talk big a big game like they came here to fight blah blah, well I’d hate to tell them, but who do they think goes in before infantry, exactly, tanks. They can all kiss my ass if they think they’re too good for it. Enough of the rant.

As I thought, I went in to talk to the officer and was told I was going to Shiryon. I asked for a reason that my eyes aren’t good enough for infantry and again got nothing. Apparently the only person in all of Israel who may know the MEDICAL reason that I can’t do infantry is the person who wrote the damn law book, who probably wrote in in the 1950’s and is probably dead. I assume, I will never find out.

After discovering my unit, we went to a building where guys get new gear depending on their unit. I had to fight with the people to get my second pair of boots and a combat bag. You would think I was asking for a million dollars the way these kids were acting. Eventually, after bothering them for 30 minutes, they gave me a bag and boots.

The next day and a half I spent at bakom doing absolutely NOTHING! The biggest waste of time of my life. It’s pretty hilarious how disorganized the army can be. It truly is. In a nutshell, I got home Thursday afternoon.

On Sunday, I think I have to go back to Bakom because that is when the Shiryon draft is and then I assume they will ship us out to the base, which is somewhere in the South. I’m pretty excited to FINALLY get started with the REAL army and I’m pretty pumped about everything I will learn, including the Hebrew. My only real fear is the hebrew and that it will take me some time, but hopefully after a few months of truly being around it 24/7, I will pick it up pretty quickly. That’s it. When I return from base I will post what happened and hopefully it will be more interesting than these past few months. God Speed!

Categories: Army

Krav Maga

I forgot to mention that I Wednesday night we had Krav Maga, martial arts, training. This is definitely one of my favorite things that we do. What can be better than learning to kick some ass? During the Krav Maga lesson, we start on with running. We run around in a circle and during it with either have to jump, get on our stomachs or backs. We also have to do sprints, similar to suicides. It’s pretty tiring. Also, if the instructor thinks someone isn’t sprinting then we have to do the sprints again, which happened. We also had to go against someone and try to push them back while they try to push you back. Both guys are putting everything they have into pushing the other as far back as possible. It’s all about leg strength and just continuing to drive yourself forward. After during running and whatnot for about 45 minutes, we finally learn some fighting techniques.

We went over what we have learned in our previous lessons: how to punch, and knee someone in the groin region. On Wednesday we learn how to essentially “hammer” someone in the back of the neck once you have them leaning over. It kind of resembles a monkey jumping up and down and hitting someone from “Planet of the Apes” with Mark Wahlberg. Not a great movie if you haven’t seen it.

To end the lesson, we got to practice all of our moves with a sleeping bag. It was a lot of fun. There are two different ways we learned to punch, then we have the kneeing thing and the hammer or bam bam as I like to call it. Everything that we learn during Krav Maga has a purpose. It more or less teaches you about survival and that there is no such thing as “cheating” when it comes down to living or dying. Everything is a weapon. Your rifle, hands, a chair, sand on the ground. Whatever you have to do to come out on top, you do. You learn how to motivate yourself and get tough. When I go to combat I cannot wait to learn more Krav Maga. It’s definitely one of the things I’m looking forward to the most.

Categories: Army

Continued…

Wednesday was a “big” day for everyone because all the soldiers are Mikveh were interviewed for either possible jobs for Jobniks or units for combat. Basically, for combat, you had to pick your top three choices. There were three lists and you had to pick one from each list. All the infantry units were on one list: Nahal, Golani, Givati, K’fer. The other list had tanks, search and rescue, and Not sure what the others were. The third list had combat engineers, Magav (border patrol), and artillery. I may have forgot some units but it doesn’t really matter.

I was, of course, at first put in the jobnik line because my profile isn’t officially a 72 yet. I waited for probabaly 45 minutes and told the officer that I wasn’t a jobnik. Nothing happened. I finally saw my commander and told him and he took care of it. A few minutes later the head officer or מ”פ came over and told me to go talk to this guy. I had to salute him and then I sat down at the desk. I spoke in hebrew to him and told him I wanted to do Nahal. He said I couldn’t because I need an 82 profile. He would only let me choose from tanks, artillery, search and rescue and one other unit. I chose tanks and search and rescue. If I can’t do Nahal, I’ll do tanks. I was at least hoping I could list Nahal. Pretty disappointing.

After that my commander came over and asked me how it went. I told him I wanted Nahal, but they wouldn’t let me list it. He asked how I felt and I told him I want Nahal, but it’s better than nothing at this point. I’ll keep fighting it until I’m on the bus to go to wherever it is I’m going.

Basically, after next week, we have to report back to base and then they ship us to the Bakom, where it all began. There, I will be told what unit I’m going into. I can either accept what they say, or refuse and demand to go to Nahal. I’ve heard stories of people doing so and they’ve either had to sit at the bakom for a week or go to jail for a week to get what I want. Not sure yet what I’ll do. I would prefer not to go to jail, but at the same time I came here to do infantry, so we’ll see. The jail I would go to isn’t a jail for serious criminals by the way. On the other hand, stories are stories so who really knows.

On Thursday, not much really happened. We had to play soccer in the morning and I hate soccer. The one time I try to get involved I hurt my ankle, but I’m okay. Later we had a kind of scavenger hunt, and had to run around the base. Afterwards, we were rewarded with getting to go up to the watchtower. it was pretty awesome up there as the view was amazing. We could see everywhere.

More to come tomorrow.

Categories: Army

Almost done….with Mikveh Alon

Hi everyone, back from yet another week at Mikveh Alon. It was my second to last week and I can’t say I’m too upset about the idea of it being over. As I look back on my time at Mikveh, I have met a some good dudes. It’s gone by pretty slowly for most of us, as I think the majority of guys are ready to finally move on to their combat units or to their jobs.

Week in Review:

On Sunday we got back to base around 12:30 and ate lunch. After lunch I found out that I had work duty on the base. It was the second time in the past two weeks. I just had to pick up trash and it was more or less a waste of time. That was Sunday.

On Monday, we had class, as usual. It’s always pretty hard to stay awake during class and I try to avoid nodding off here and there, but it’s pretty inevitable. Throughout the day, my Moch-la-kah kept screwing up the doch 1 and when it came time for formation at night, the Sgt. wasn’t too happy. He “yelled” at us and asked us if we were a bunch of children and blah blah. He then said we had 7 minutes to get inside and change into our bet uniforms, which can only mean that we were going to run. We were punished by sprinting into lines and chets (formation) all over the base. The Sgt. then took us down to where all the extra tanks and aoutomobiles are kept and made us to more sprints. Then he stopped us and we had to do push ups. We had to go down and hold it for a few seconds or so and then we could rise up. It’s something that was much harder at the beginning of Mikveh Alon. After that we had to get into something similar to the push up position, where instead of being on your hands, you get on your forearms and hold. We had to hold for 3 minutes. It works the abs. Again, it used to be a lot harder. During it, the Sgt. was yelling at us that in a combat unit you have to hold in this position for 10 minutes. While we were holding in this position, one of my fellow soldiers, Meyer, had to write a doch 1 for the entire platoon. If he screwed up, we would have to do everything all over again. Well, he did a supHerb job and did everything correctly. We then had to run a little more and go to bed sweating.

Woke up Tuesday morning and not too much happened. Did sport. Went to class. Same nonsense. We had our last physical test that night. During the day, a bunch of guys returned from from the paratrooping giboosh (tryout). I had originally signed up for it, but was told I could not do it because my profile is too low. You need an 82. I was somewhat envious that these guys go to go do it. Even if they don’t make it, they got a greta experience out of it and I wanted to challenge myself. So I was disappointed with that.

At night, we had our physical. We had to do push ups, sit ups, and run 2K around the base. The max for push ups was 75 and sit ups was 86. I maxed out in both. The 2K run I did a lot better than the first time and finished 7th out of roughly 30 plus guys. However, a bunch of guys were missing and my time wasn’t that great. I really need to improve my run time. That was basically Tuesday in a nut shell.

Rest to come later….

Categories: Army

Shabbat Dinner with The Food Guy

Last night was Shabbat and I decided to cook some chow. Since I don’t eat all that well in the army and we only get one meat a day, usually at lunch, on the weekends I like to eat as much as I can.

For Shabbat Dinner, I cooked meatballs (lamb). Mixed in with the meatballs was diced onions, some pepper, salt, garlic powder, nutmeg, oregano, and a little Italian dressing. I cooked them for about 35 minutes on the stove in tomato sauce. Along with the meatballs we had pasta and grilled peppers and onions.

I was very pleased with how everything came out, it was very delicious. I’ve started to somewhat enjoy cooking. I used to hate it and would still prefer to be cooked for, but it gives me something to do and its grown on me.

Tonight for Dinner:

Grilled Teriyaki chicken, brown rice, a salad and edamame. I’m looking forward to it and will let everyone know how it turns out. Enjoy your Saturday where ever you may be. Go outside, sit by the beach, run through the sprinkler, have a catch. Have a good one everyone.

-Food Guy Out

Categories: The Food Guy

Wednesday

On Wednesday we had our final hebrew test of Mikveh Alon. Educational soldiers came from the bakom (where soldiers are processed and then go to their respective units) and they were to test us. The test would consist of a conversational part, reading, writing, and some grammar.

The day started off like any other, we had to be outside in formation by 5:15 for sport. On this day our sport was a total בלגן (mess). The commanders got this great idea for us to do this type of relay race out by all the tanks and other vehicles that weren’t being used. The problem with all of this, is that no one had a clue as to what we were doing. When we finally understood what the commanders were telling us to do, they had changed their minds on the rules. We spent more time having them explain what we were supposed to do rather than actually work out. It was a big waste of time.

After sport, we had 45 minutes to shave, clean our boots, get dressed and clean our rooms. We received some new privileges this past week:

– Instead of having 7 minutes, or 4 minutes or a short amount of time to get something done, we now get a long period of time to just do everything. This saves time, as we don’t have to waste time running in and out of the baracks to get into formation and can just get everything done at once.

– We can use our cell phones at lunch.

– They give us 32 minutes for breakfast and dinner and 42 minutes for lunch, and after the usual 10 minutes to eat we no longer have to wait for the Sgt. in order to get up, we can just get up ourselves and go to break.

– We can go to the store during lunch.

We then had breakfast and went to class. At about 11:5 a.m. my commander came into class and said we were going to lunch. This was about an hour earlier than usual, so we knew we had the test. However, more importantly, everyone was hoping that we would get to go home around 5 p.m. because we had our יום סידורים, which is our day to take care of bills and whatnot.

After I finished lunch, I walked outside the dining hall and my commander called me over. He told me that I more or less that I have officially and unofficial 72 profile. Meaning that I will have a 72 profile, it just needs to be signed off by a board, which shouldn’t be a problem. However, I won’t be celebrating until it’s official and the papers have been signed. Once it hopefully becomes official, I plan to fight to get an 82. I figure I have nothing to lose at this point. I’m hoping everything will be worked out in the next week or so. I have to go and talk to the doctor on base this coming week. I’m extremely relieved, but still doubt that this will work out. Call me a negative Nancy, but after dealing with this army for 7 or 8 months I’ve learned that nothing is easy and until a paper is signed, nothing is official.

After talking with my commander, We had to go wait to have our test. I waited about an hour and a half to go in for the test. When my name was called, I walked into a room, which had maybe 20 tables set up for soldiers to take their tests. A girl greeted me out the door and I was actually somewhat nervous. Not sure why considering the test would effect me getting into a combat unit or anything. Anyway, the girl brought me over to a table and we talked. I talked about why I came to Israel, when I came, Where I lived, My family, Michelle and what I like to do on the weekends. I was actually pretty pleased with how that part went. Next, the girl said a few words and I had to tell her what each one meant. I didn’t have a clue what they meant and had never even heard them. After that I had to do some grammar by telling her which words were masculine and feminine. Next I had to read sentences and tell her what some words meant. I struggled with that. Last, I had to listen to her speak and write sentences. Overall, it wasn’t terrible. They score you based out of 10. When I had originally gone to the Lishkat Giyus and taken my hebrew test I scored a 3 out of 10. After this test, I improved to a 5. Not great, I’m disappointed with how much I learned at Mikveh Alon. I thought the army would’ve concentrated on hebrew more, since after all, everyone was at Mikveh Alon because they needed to improve their hebrew.

After the test my unit went to class. People were not in a good mood after the test. Everyone felt like it was very hard and that we hadn’t learned enough hebrew as our time at Mikveh Alon comes to an end. I agree. Also, guys were annoyed that when they asked us what certain words meant during the test, they were words that even the commanders and head of education didn’t know. Thus, how could they expect us to know these words. Everyone, said what they had to say to our hebrew commander and were pretty worked up. It was frustrating and what was even more frustrating was that we didn’t get to go home that day and had to wait for Thursday morning.

Categories: Army