On the frontlines

The Jerusalem Post's crime reporter writes from her unit in the North.

August 3, 2006 08:20
2 minute read.
tank girl 88

tank girl 88. (photo credit: )


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If you ask me, our mornings are unexceptional. The company sergeant-major, Anwar, a dock worker from Usfiya, wakes us up, calling us by name as if we were his children. An old hand at serving alongside men, I have perfected the art of changing out of my pajamas and into my uniform pants without getting out of my sleeping bag. Groaning and stretching, the men and women of the medical company of the homefront command's northern search and rescue unit begin their day. We are a young company - other than five doctors and Anwar, nobody is over the age of 30. Because we are over half female, very few of us are parents. There is a standing joke that the women of the company will continue to do reserve duty until the first fetus pulse. It is in fact the truth: For women reservists, the first pregnancy marks the end of service. Our daily routine does not differentiate between our male and female company members. Sleeping arrangements are moved, stand-bys and days off are negotiated and medical equipment is loaded and reloaded, seemingly eternally, from truck to ambulance to improvised storage room and back again. Everybody carries, everybody gets hot and frustrated and tired. Orders change frequently but thankfully, our real specialty - treating crush victims as part of heavy search and rescue response - has yet to be needed. Instead, we have reinforced MDA teams in Katyusha-stricken areas and gone house to house to locate disabled and elderly civilians stranded alone in Safed. Everywhere we have worked throughout the past 10 days, the men in the unit have become used to hearing their female counterparts sigh and answer, for the 25th time, "Yes, there are women in reserves." Still, even after receiving our trademark orange beret, I don't feel like part of homefront command. As my regular service unit enters southern Lebanon, every newspaper article detailing our tanks' efforts tears up my stomach. "But I am a combat medic," I tell my company commander, who has been trying to convince me of the importance of my assignment. "I have a specialization. And it's not here." It frustrates me no end to think that my expertise in battalion-level frontline medical response, gained through trial and error in Samaria and Gaza, is going to waste. Even though I know that my former unit is short on reserve medics, the fact remains: As far as the army is concerned, women in reserves are different. Even after I received a citation for participation in complex operations throughout Gaza, I - and the handful of women combat medics who served in similar positions - are not wanted in armored corps reserve units. A few of us have tried to volunteer to serve in the brigade, whose medical officer has requested that we be allowed back, but to no avail. And so, I pull my hair back into a ponytail, slide my orange beret under my shoulder strap, and prepare to start another day alongside the men and women of my company. Filing outside into the sun, we gather around our improvised breakfast table, reaching for shrink-wrapped Danishes and boxes of chocolate milk, awaiting our orders for another day of reserves.

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