As Elie didn't call Or by his first name for the first few months, so too these new soldiers will call Elie only by "Commander" and Elie will be tough on them. He'll make them run - as an Israeli commander will, by telling them, "Follow me." He'll test them and teach them about their responsibilities with a gun. And behind his back, they will complain to each other and maybe even give Elie a nickname (his group called one of the commanders, "Barbie" and another "Solomon").
And finally, he'll walk through the night with them and share in the pride their parents will feel when they too receive their turquoise berets. But that's in the near future - after Elie gets home. So, how will Elie get home? The long and short of it is that I agreed to drive up there and get him and all his backpacks filled with the stuff he's brought up there (the fan, the extra blanket, the outdoor cooking grill, and more). It's probably a 3 hour drive and I'm wishing he will call any second and tell me to leave, though it might well only be early tomorrow morning before I can do that.
He's not even sure how to tell me to get to the base up there...and that too is part of the fun, though I decided I'm going to make sure I get there during daylight hours. So, still trying to coordinate when I would get him (today until the evening or first thing in the morning), Elie explained that he was involved in offering artillery for a huge paratroopers exercise taking place in the north. Yesterday, they thought they would finish, but fired much fewer shells than expected and so today, the exercise continues.
"Did you hear that?" Elie says after a loud boom came through the phone.
"Yes, what was it?" I asked.
"We just shot."
"Elie, that is so cool."
And it was. Of course, it was cool because it is just an exercise and no one was hurt (except, perhaps, some plants there on the hill in the distance). Like other times Elie has told me about training exercises, I didn't write anything. I'm not sure why - after all, it isn't like our enemies can't hear the booms too. It isn't like they are going to suddenly cross the border and attack. After all, if they would attack, it would be with the hopes of catching us when our weapons aren't loaded and ready to shoot. Where's the logic of attacking artillery units that have their guns loaded and pointing in one direction when all they would have to do is swing around and go "boom."
But still, being cautious, or perhaps superstitious, I didn't write, until I saw this posted on a popular news site:
Today, the IDF Paratroopers Brigade finished its biggest brigade-level exercise ever. The exercise lasted more than seven weeks, and the commanders and soldiers of the brigade practiced different scenario types and objectives, including air assault exercises on the Golan Heights. The exercises focused on wartime scenarios involving difficult conditions and realistic logistical challenges.
Yup, they did practice today, and it was so cool.