Lauren Carrier, a Fall 2016 student is a junior from Naperville, Illinois. She was a camper at URJ OSRUI and belongs to several clubs at her school including the Feminist club, DECA (business club) and HOSA (medical club). She documents her Gadna experience below.
On Sunday my group was dropped off at an IDF (Israeli Defense Force) base in the middle of the Negev desert. Upon arrival at the base a commander in full uniform with an M16 ordered us off the bus. We were instructed to run and make a “het” (the shape of the hebrew letter which looks like a 3 sided square). The commander only spoke Hebrew; luckily there was a girl in our group who is fluent and could translate for the rest of us. We spent the next two hours getting uniforms, setting up our tents, and getting yelled at to stand in proper form (which included hands behind our backs and feet in a V with our water bottles touching our left foot). After we had an hour lesson on how to make two straight lines from the “het” form in ten seconds without messing up. Each time someone stood out of position that person had to do push-ups. By the end of the day I was fed up with being yelled at and sore from the amount of push-ups I had done. But the day wasn’t over quite yet. My team had the privilege of cleaning bathrooms as our nightly rotation. I will never complain about doing the dishes at home after that experience.
My sleeping arrangements were interesting to say the least. I slept on a foam board in a tent and had a commander with a gun standing at the foot of my bed making sure I went to sleep. If we went on our phones, talked, ate, or went to the bathroom at night we were required to stand outside in full uniform for 4 minutes.
Monday was spent in the classroom all day learning about gun safety and how to properly shoot an M16. This was in preparation for Wednesday when we actually shot M16’s. In between each class we did running drills all over the base. There was little time to ourselves. That night my group was responsible for kitchen duty. We spent five hours setting up, serving food, and cleaning the whole kitchen. This was a tedious and frustrating task. Every time we thought we were close to being finished, the commander would say our work wasn’t good enough and would dump another bucket of soapy water onto the floor or would hand back a dish to be re-scrubbed. By 10PM we were finished and finally got to take a well deserved shower.
Tuesday was spent in the field. Here we learned how to camouflage ourselves in the desert (which included rubbing mud all over our faces). Then we played a game of hiding in various bushes so our commander couldn’t find us. After this we learned how to army crawl all over the desert. We also learned what to do if a grenade is thrown at us. At random moments our commander would throw a rock into the crowd and we had to run and dive to save ourselves. The last mission was to climb a mountain after an obstacle course. This was not the easiest task after the long day but it was very rewarding. After a lunch break we headed by foot to Ben Grunion’s grave. In full uniform we proudly marched to this important site. It was interesting to go out in public in full uniform where people actually thought we were in the army.
Wednesday we got an unexpected wake up at 5:30 AM. We were told we had 10 minutes to get out of bed and be in a “het”. They loaded us onto a bus and we went to set up the shooting range. After the long blurry morning of setting up targets it was time to shoot the guns. Actually holding an automatic assault riffle was incredibly scary. I knew exactly what to do and how to handle it, yet it was still terrifying. When I got the command to pull the trigger I couldn’t help but close my eyes.
Finally we had a closing ceremony to end the week. We had to still take down the tent, give back the uniforms, and clean the base. I was incredibly happy to see our bus pull into the base with our counselors on it. The experience was very challenging yet rewarding. I do not think the army is anywhere in my future,but I am grateful I had the opportunity to push my limits and learn more about Israel.