Though we still have a few more weeks to go of advanced training, I thought I'd post about the last week we had, War Week, and a little about advanced training in general.
In short, advanced training deals less with discipline, and more with how to actually be a soldier. The weeks are spent out in the field, with all your gear for the week packed into your vest and incredibly heavy bag. The training is a mixture of open-field and urban combat. You learn how to take over enemy areas, first in small groups, then slightly bigger groups, then as a unit, and eventually, in War Week, as a pluga (so all the Gadsar together).
Everybody warned us about War Week and how hard it would be. On Saturday night we were given the briefing - we were to go into "Lebanon" and capture Hizbollah strongholds. We got all our gear together, carrying enough food and water for the first 18 hours. We camouflaged our faces and stood for a final check from one of the top officers. Standing alone, with all the weight on your shoulders is bad enough, let alone setting out on foot over the "border", lord knows how many kilometres, to make it to the combat zone in time.
We walked all night in formation, arrived on time, captured the areas, took out the enemy (cardboard targets with balloons), with the added backup of three tanks and a team of snipers.
We were then told that some had been "injured" and had to be taken back over the border for treatment. For kilometre after painful kilometre we rushed to carry the injured on the stretchers back to the base. This was the pattern of the week; briefing, march, combat, carrying the injured back. On and on it went. In four days I ate 3 sandwiches and 2 pieces of dried mango. Every 24 hours we slept a total of about 2 hours.
But I learnt a lesson that one can really only learn, I believe, being a soldier. It didn't matter how hungry, thirsty or exhausted we were, the mind can overcome all that if it has the will to do so. Carrying the injured back to the base for the last time (this time we had a genuine injury), we came across our biggest challenge yet. We hadn't slept at all that night and we had just captured what felt like Mount Everest. Despite our backs doubled-over with pain, shoulders burning, for four hours we were carrying those stretchers, racing to get them back in time. If someone needed switching out from under the stretcher, it was enough to look into their eyes and see their pain to immediately forget yours. "Brothers in arms" isn't just a Hollywood cliché, it's what makes our army so strong.