Each infantry soldier is assigned a ‘pakal’ a few months into training and spends a week learning its every in and out. Here are the nominees:
1) Squad Commander
3) Light Anti-Tank Weapon
4) Grenade Launcher
6) Machine Gun
7) Radio carrier for the company or platoon commander
8) “Uhh so, I um, missed the day everyone got a pakal… so like… now what?”
Myself and 11 others were pumped to be chosen to be the rightful possessors of the Negev, a weapon reserved for the baddest gevers in the platoon. Soldiers who are granted this honor are “rabakistim”- fearless savage-minded enthusiasts who charge into situations head first.
Hi, I’m Meir Fox and I’m apparently a fearless savage-minded enthusiast who charges into situations head first.
The Negev is a light automatic machine gun essentially designed to impolitely inform the enemy what happens when you mess with with the Children of Israel. The thing is there’s really nothing light about it. Negevistim traditionally carry around 30 kilo (you bust out that metric conversion calculator!) in ammo with the gun itself, which is akin to giving a piggyback ride to a militarized midget whose sole purpose in life is to make your shoulders and back as sore as possible.
My week learning it was the craziest.
“This badass weapon is your new girlfriend,” my instructing officer announced the first day at the range. “You will sleep with her, make her look beautiful, and ensure the guy who starts with her doesn’t make it home.” As the rounds took flight I immediately realized I’m a much better shot with the Negev than I am with the Micro Tavor– the gun I use in non-Negev situations and for looking-like-a-baller-when-I-take-it-home-on-weekends purposes.
New fun fact that helps non-science people like me understand science: The longer the gun barrel = the more the bullet spins in the chamber = a more stable trajectory = a more accurate shot. And who said military intelligence was an oxymoron.
Speaking of accuracy, each Negevist is also given a night vision scope and laser- which, besides for making me feel like a big kid in a health food store, helped induce a collective crack-up when I nearly face-planted after colliding thigh-first into a steel cable during a run we took with them one night to get acclimated to seeing things.
We pushup-ed with it.
We de and reassembled it under pressure.
We ran with it.
We ran with it with our vests.
We ran with it with our vests and our helmets.
We ran with it with our vests and our helmets, cocked it 80 times, held it over our heads, and then ran again.
I learned how to curse in hebrew.
We busted into shooting positions.
We learned how to un-stop firing stoppages.
We learned you can push yourself even more than you think you can’t.
The highlight of Negev training week is the traditional 300 meter crawl, where you don’t crawl 300 meters (that’s about 3.3 football fields m’kay) with the Negev. To explain this seemingly illogical sentence, I’m gonna shift to narrative voice and dramatically pause in between each sentence.
Stars choking on black sky.
30 SECONDS EVERYONE OUTSIDE!!!!
We knew it was coming.
It was just a question of when.
Ignited ammunition boxes blaze the trail ahead.
MATZAV SHKIVA AVOR!!!!
Elbows dig into sand as boots scuff shooting range concrete.
Our commanders cheer us on.
We now break from paused dramatic narrative voice to explain how I’ve been crawling with the Negev when I said we didn’t: So, you can’t really crawl with it. What you basically have to do is grab the gun by its legs, throw it ahead, and catch up to it. Then repeat.
Aaaaaaaaand we’re back!
I can’t move my arms.
Right side forward.
But I move them.
Left side forward.
I swipe the sweat stinging my eyes.
It’s glowing green.
A stick light signaling the end.
We each throw it skyward and war whoop.
Hugs and high fives.
The newest class of Negevistim-at-large.