The British author, Roald Dahl once wrote, "I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours, a fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do." I like that quote because it holds true in terms of both civilian and army life.
Post basic training, I went on to learn in more detail what my job as a foreign liaison NCO entailed. The course lasted over a month, and soon afterward, we were clean cut, groomed, spewing facts and figures, knowledgeable on every war ever fought (too many), and presidents of Israel et al. In short, we were ready.
The NCOs were systematically auctioned off behind closed doors to the numerous bases scattered across Israel. There was another goodbye, this time more meaningful because for the most part we had become close friends. We had studied for our many tests together, slept over each other’s houses, and in my specific army room, had become a tight group of eight girls who sang, laughed, got in trouble, and cried on the very last day.
The course was different from basic training in the sense that we, new, young, naïve soldiers were no longer tested for our abilities to listen and march in a straight line to the rhythmic beat of “Left, right, left, right” but rather we were tested for our abilities to memorize, analyze and learn. I found the course difficult because for the most part, the material was boring, and was condensed into long hours of classroom study after a limited number of hours of sleep.
Often, I was punished for falling asleep and was thus, told to stand in the back of the classroom for the entire day. My falling asleep episodes reached a point where I simply volunteered to stand in the back of the room before a new lecture began. Soldiers were punished quite frequently for any tiny infraction. My army room, for instance, was left unlocked one day, so all eight girls were disciplined in that we had to walk around base all day with our colossal army bags on our backs, packed with all our belongings. Some soldiers were told to sew all their buttons shut because they had left a button open, some were told to walk around with a jug of water after forgetting their water bottle. Our commanders were creative and somewhat evil.
The specifics of my job are classified, but overall I work as a middleman between the IDF and peacemaking organizations such as the UN. I represent Israel as well as the IDF when dealing with these organizations. With time, and I have had plenty of time on my base, I have grown to really appreciate my job. While I believe that every job in the IDF is important, I have come to think that this is one of the most rewarding tracks, we don''t only work on the IDF level, and we represent a higher purpose when conducting mutual briefings, tours, and dinners with the foreigners. Many of these foreign officials do not know what Israelis are like until they meet us, so it is a great honor to play a role in the international realm.
There are many wonderful moments that are part of my day-to-day army routine, waking up in the morning to have coffee with the girls, going to Friday night dinner on base every other Friday (The NCOs spend 10 days on base, 4 days at home, 10 days on base, 4 days at home...on and on), the peacefulness of looking out onto the border (yes, that is true). There are many such moments and memories that you build from spending many days on a closed base. (A closed base is a base you sleep on; and an open base is where you arrive in the morning and return home at night). The greatest benefit I see to choosing a closed base, are the friendships; you create stronger friendships when you are forced to spend 24/7 of your time with the same group of people -- you become a family.
At this point in my army service when I only have about six months left until I am discharged, the daily routine of life on base is difficult. A friend who served with me, called it the "Garin Tzabar syndrome," she explained that we arrive all excited to join the army, go through basic training hung over with euphoria and awe at the new experience, we then have a course where again, we meet new people, and learn new things. Then we are sent to our bases where soon enough the euphoria dies down, the awe is replaced by expectations, and we grow bored. I suppose that is basically what I feel every once in awhile. But it is a good life lesson, life is routine, and it can be boring but it isn''t rational to think that every time the Gemini in me kicks in, I will be able to drop what I am doing and find a new job, a new sort of life. Sometimes you have to stick things out, and I believe the IDF has been my longest running stint; going on two years soon enough.