Meir in the Middle

Imun Choref, Part II

“Just wait till the targad.” -Everyone ever

A targad (lit:“targil g’dudi”) is a battalion-wide war exercise that essentially mirrors the structure of a tarchat: same gear, same weight, same formations, same ugly face with a different name.

The good thing about this particular drill is that it’s greener (watch out for boot-sucking mud), bucolic (steer clear of slow-on-the-uptake, nomadic cows), and smaller in scale (beware of hanfatzot).

“Hm. Yea this is definitely not where I parked my car…”

Speaking of hanfatzot, rumor has it that the first two days of the targad are mobile- APC’s, Hummers, and Rangers to get to our destinations… and it’s actually true! Ahhhh hellllz yeeeaaa!! This is the best news since Flappy Bird got taken dow-

Wait. What? Ohhhhhh… everyone else gets to ride while my company, the Palchod, has to lead on foot. Mhm. I see…

@&$*%#!

Like I said, beware of Hanfatzot.

The targad opens with a three hour trek through fields chock full of jagged rocks and goopy mud. And after nearly face planting, bruising my toe, and rolling my ankle… twice, my eyes converge on a dark, forested area we apparently have to conquer- thorn bushes, thicket and Dementors? looming ahead.

(My Patronus is a Fox. C’mon.)

As in every big targil, there’s a squad of trainees simulating the enemy called “biyum oyev.” Apparently these youngins failed AP hide and seek because we discover their position almost instantly, and after taking over the hill they were supposed to not let us take over, I notice one sneaking up behind me. Apparently one of the biyum oyev soldiers has decided he’s going to try to kidnap me. Cute.

Hello-my-name-is-chai-b’seret-tiron: Listen, you’re cold aren’t you?

Meir: Is there oxygen in the air today?

Hello-my-name-is-chai-b’seret-tiron: Here, come with me. I have wafers…

Wafers. Really. That’s what you’re going to tempt me with. Wafers.

Look, ach sheli, if you’re going to try to kidnap me AT LEAST make it something worth my while. It’s not like we need to play Israeli Family Fued for you think of something creative.

Or do we…

TOP THREE T’SHUVOT AL HA LUACH!

Things THAT ARE NOT WAFERS that you could tempt a freezing Israeli soldier with:

1. Cigarettes.

This will work. Every time. Guaranteed.

2. Hot beverages.

SERIOUSLY, HOW DID YOU NOT THINK OF THIS AND OFFER ME WAFERS INSTEAD?! WAFERS!?! Even if you had brewed a horrifying amalgamation of chili matok and Jump tut banana drink (seriously that stuff is so gross; it tastes like cough medicine needing cough medicine), heated it up, and served it in an unwashed military canteen, I still would have considered.

3. Combina from the soda machine.

Aka the silent killer. Because why settle for just a drink when you can get a drink, AND a mini chocolate bar, AND a mini package of roasted peanuts all at once!! I dunno which luminary thought of this but it’s more popular in the army than Eyal Golan’s latest album. Oh. Wait.

After invading the Forbidden Forest, we continue marching until we reach a moonlit lake, its banks scarping off into craggy brown knolls.

(P.S. There’s a lake next to the Forbidden Forest. Just saying.)

We collectively plant our butts onto a rocky butte, fully exposed to the blistering wind. I pull on my Shrek-colored, Hagrid-sized rain gear, tuck my helmet under my head and barely witness my eyes closing on themselves.

Until my frozen feet eventually force them open.

If you thawed your lashes open at 5:47 AM you may or may not have seen a floppy green shape blurring past.

You see, it’s increasingly difficult to continue sleeping when your feet crash your slumber party. So, chalfas and dignity and all, I get up and start bolting back and forth, passing and re-passing the snoring line of soldiers, a few waking up and subsequently WTF-achi-ing at the sight of the American dressed like an oversized lima bean running wind sprints before the sun has gotten its act together. 

Although I now may have to change my name and zip code, Operation Green Giant is a success because my feet regain feeling. And good thing they do, because ten minutes later we’re moving again.

It’s hard for your morning not to drag when you sleep two hours the night before. It’s even harder when that morning is a series of marches and targilim, culminating in trek back to where you started it from. At least there’s a rest break.

There we are strung out on the side of the road like busted guitar strings, bodies deflating, energy drained…

Until a Taglit tour bus suddenly appears.

Exhausted? Who? Me? Ha! I’m not only going to assume the Rambo position while smiling for the pictures, but I’m obviously also gonna go over to the obviously American guy who comes off the bus (Go Blue! T-shirt…) shake his hand and obviously be all soldier and say things like “Yep. Just doing our job,” while my comrades and I unravel again on the ground, resuming our debate if that girl is a kusit and aurally exploring hamburger combos as soon as our new friends depart.

After Birthright experiences a future puzzling surge in applications from the Tzabar battalion, we move on and regroup in a clearing with the other companies to await further orders. Turns out, because of something the officers in the heated off-limits tent decide, our next movement is in nine hours from now. Nine hours. Nine. Hours. Tagid li: What the fachun are we supposed to do for nine hours?

Stuff we do for nine hours:

1. Make tree shelters:

Some genius figures out that leaves block cold wind more than no leaves and the race is on. It’s as if someone promises a years supply of Kinder Bueno to the finder of the most fallen trees, as bunches of detached saplings are snatched up, dragged over, and fixed into impromptu shelters that our desert-wandering Israelite ancestors would sorta shep nachas from.

Arboreal spooning session: 4 hours.

2. Make bonfires:

Some hero decides that nim’as lo m’ha’kor ha’masriach ha’zeh, and recycles the branches into firewood. Soon enough, illegal (then legalized) campfires dot the frigid landscape and hey-fancy-meeting-you-here situations abound. K more like Alo-stop-hogging-all-the-warmth-ya-manyak situations, but still.

Kumbaya-my-gever-kumbaya social scene: 2 hours.

3. Improvise for warmth:

Some visionary named Meir Fox notices a cargo truck loitering innocently next to the heated, off-limits tent. The last fleeting embers have suffocated into smoke long ago; warmth is a rare commodity these days. I steal away from the ‘shetach esh’ and oh-so-quietly slip up into the truck’s rear canvas cargo hold, wading through cardboard shooting targets, aluminum battalion signs, wooden target planks, and plastic flagpoles, to clear space for my coolatta-temperatured tachat.

Homeless hangout with objects my rasap dreams about at night: 3 hours

We’re back on our feet when double digits turn single.

The Targad’s Finale is a giant targil featuring every piece of gear we’ve been shlepping the last two days. It’s been ridiculously cold but today is especially ridiculously cold, and as an added bonus to this polar vortex, it suddenly starts raining and hailing. As the sky bursts open and drenches us in deluge, I look up and around and surprisingly see smiles slowly beaming through. We’ve reached that point of simultaneous no-shit-giving, that paradoxical moment when it’s so bad that it can’t get any worse so you might as well embrace it.

Me, Ari, and Ari’s “five gallon mitznefet” right before the storm.

I said it once and I’ll say it again: The toughest times in the army are the ones you remember most. When your boots kicked over a mountain your head tried hard to convince you they couldn’t; when you cuddled for warmth with a bunch of dudes in the mud as your ears turned red and lips turned blue; when things were so bad they somehow became good. This is what I’ll always take with me.

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