Wednesday, December 03, 2014

My army service - part three

The next stage in my army service was a 'professional' course. Some members of my platoon were sent to a radio technician's course, some were sent to a medical technician's course and some were sent elsewhere altogether (for example, one person in my tent went to the military police and another was sent to the education corps). I was fortunate enough to be sent to the medical technician's course. I don't remember now whether this was down to good luck (something which is in extremely short supply in the army) or whether we were asked our preferences and someone actually listened. However this came about, I was to spend the next month of my illustrious army career in a huge base not too far from where I lived.

Here we lived in an old building - the entire base had been a British army camp during the second world war - and had only a small amount of army bureaucracy with which to deal. The first two weeks were spent learning first aid, how to pack bandages and how to pack a medical kit to be taken into the battle field. This was, at least, fairly interesting and the lack of discipline (at least, compared to basic training) helped me feel more normal.

A friend of mine, who had emigrated a year earlier than me and so had started his army service the year before, had also taken this course. Following army regulations, he had to spend the next six months with his army group, who were manning an army base somewhere in the far north; he was working the dining room of this base . Once those six months were finished, he would spend his final six months being a medical technician (the entire Nachal service was based on six month sections).

The moral of this story was not lost on me and after two weeks of the medical course, I had an epiphany: I could sign a certain form which would get me out of the Nachal and into the general army. As I was training to be a medical technician, I would spend the remainder of my army service (over a year, but never mind) as a technician, probably in this base which was not too far from where I lived. I signed the form, but nothing seemed to happen. This epiphany very much changed my general attitude and I became much more happy as opposed to the resigned and dulled person that I had become.

When the course finished after a month, we were sent back to our previous training camp in order to join our fitter comrades for a final month of basic training. There were three weeks which had to be filled in somehow, and I managed to wangle myself a job in the camp infirmary. As I wasn't a field medic, I wasn't allowed to treat anybody, but I found enough jobs to keep myself busy and out of sight. I slept in a room (!) along with a few other people, went home on the weekend, ate in the cadre dining room (fried eggs for breakfast) and even received a few mid-week passes for an evening/night off base.

When this regrettably short period finished, I rejoined the trainees and started sleeping in a tent again. We spent most of the next week learning how to march around the parade ground. The weather was infernally hot and my feet hurt a great deal, so I used my contacts to obtain some tubular bandaging which I used to wear as an extra sock; this cut down on the pain.

The final parade came and went and then we were awaiting orders for the next stage in our army careers. I can remember the place clearly and I can remember the time (we had just cleaned everything up) but I can't remember whether this incident took place after the final parade or before I went to the medical technician training - one time seems too early and one time seems too late. Anyway, whenever it was (and logic seems to dictate that it was at the end of the complete basic training, around June 1980), I was told that I was to report the next morning to the office of a high ranking officer in the chief medical officer's headquarters near Tel Aviv for an interview.

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