Internet security is a big part of the IDF these days so, since I don’t feel like getting my ass thrown in jail, I’m going to adhere to the strictest interpretation of those rules. So, where am I deployed? I’ll say that my unit is currently on the border with Gaza. What am I doing? To answer that question, I’m going to write a three (or more, we’ll see how it goes) blog series called Life on the Line.
Before I get started, however, maybe I should explain what it means to be on the line. Let’s start with preconceived notions; I don’t care what war movie you’re thinking of, it’s not like that. No, two opposing armies are not lining up against one another on an organized battlefield. And, no, we’re not living in holes with our eyes glued on the horizon watching the enemy’s every move. So, what does it mean for us to be on the line? We spend the overwhelming majority of our time on our base (what we do on base is part of this and the other posts). Our job is to simply make sure that there is no encroachment into Israeli territory.
Now, to start Life on the Line with Part I – The Night Shift.
One of the absolutely most important things in the army is communication. Without effective communication, it’s simply impossible to know what’s going on within our unit or with other units in the army. A huge part of that communication is radio. Our company has a radio room that is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Regardless of what is going on outside, those radios are never alone. Not for a minute. Not for a second. Never. To ensure that that’s the case, there is always one radioman and one runner on duty. This past week, I had the pleasure of being the runner during the night shift – midnight to noon.
When you know that you’re going to be awake for a twelve hour shift, the planning starts well beforehand. The hope was always to knock out a three or four hour nap, starting around 7:30 or 8:00 that night, and get up in just enough time to put on my uniform and brush my teeth. The reality was quite different. Generally, I got an hour or so of sleep before starting my shift.
Midnight, the shift starts. Both the radioman and I are in a shitty mood. We look at our watches – it’s 12:07AM. Only another 11 hours and 53 minutes. Fuuuuuuck… All we want is to sleep a full night. Yet, we both know that that’s nowhere in our immediate futures. We look at each other, as if expecting that the other has come up with a genius idea in the last 12 hours to make the time pass faster. We both know better than that. So we amuse ourselves with the same things as the night before and the night before that – backgammon, guitar, reading, order pizza, talk about life and politics (which is really just code for what soldiers actually talk about), joke about life in the radio room, take pictures make little movies. It’s enough entertainment to make the time pass. But there’s no other way of saying it; as the time goes on, we get dumber.
These lighter moments are invariably broken up throughout the night. I need to wake up a driver or a tracker or an officer. Other than that, most of the night is rather monotonous. So we check our watches and come up with some new song or video to make and make coffee and check our watches again. Suddenly the boredom is broken – we just got a report that someone did X (as in a variable or things I can’t expand on. Nothing bad, don’t worry, Mom). So I have a few minutes of “excitement.” I run (very rarely is it an actual run) to wake up an officer and his drivers then I make my way across base to get a tracker. That’s it, back to the radio room. My “action” is over.
6 AM – sunrise. The sky begins to brighten, the birds chirp. There’s hope in the air. One of us lets out a smile. We quickly realize our error. For us, it’s false hope. We’re only half done our shift. The smile disappears. We sink back into our chairs, urging the other to make some more coffee. Later and later into the morning, we start to hear noises in the company – groans of the morning, feet dragging, unhappy voices. We drag through the rest of our shift. Noon – we use what little energy we have left to squeeze out a smile. Triumphantly, we exit the radio room, taking in the light, the warmth, the noises of the day. We did it.