Return to The IDF: My Experience As A Reserve Officer, & Meeting My Men...and They're All Older Than Me ! 

I finished my first stint in the IDF reserves about a week ago.   It was good to be back in uniform, serving my country again.   Israel relies on a large force of reserve soldiers to augment our standing army - after our three mandatory years of army service, Israeli citizens can be called up at any time for training and at time of war of course.

Israelis are eligible for Miluim (Reserve Duty) for up to twenty years after we complete our mandatory service. When duty calls, we simply stop our lives, leave our homes, families  and jobs, pull on the green uniforms we all keep in a corner of our closets, lace up our army boots and  head to an IDF for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks every year.

As I have only recently completed my 3 years’ service, reserve duty was a new experience for me and it brought new challenges:  I found it strange to see people of all ages and from all walks of life such as lawyers, business men, bus drivers, teachers, graduate students, etc., sleeping in tents, and roughing it - until now the soldiersa round me had usually been my age or younger.

I was put in charge of a new group of soldiers and although as an officer I have been in charge of soldiers before, this time instead of being older than my men,  I was the youngest reservist there, yet I was assigned to be their commander.  This was going to be “interesting”! Not only was I the new face, I was in charge of these soldiers who had known each other and served together for the past ten years and I was the baby of the group -  It is fair to say that I was just a little apprehensive!  Would I fit in? Would they accept me as an authority figure?  How would we all get along? We are going to serve together for many eyars to come, so the answers to these questions really matter.

But I shouldn’t have worried.   Coming back to the base was like coming home.  Nothing had changed: The same food (Umm yummy!); same army paper work (unfortunately) and I’m sure that the soldiers who were ten years my senior felt the same.  There’s a universal experience in the army that unites us all.  As soon as we put on the uniform, we became a unit with a common goal, and it didn’t matter that I was their junior – I was their officer and the role was the same regardless of our relative ages, and one we are all trained to fall into and accept.  Despite our different personalities, backgrounds and ages, we shared our knowledge, training and experience of the IDF, and we merged into a cohesive group, spending the week honing our team building skills and mastering new equipment.  It was hard, but satisfying work which the army had been training us to do from the day we had entered as eighteen year old raw recruits – something we showed when we made  Beneath the Helmet.

Most of these guys have families and the dates of this session of reserve duty fell in the middle of summer vacation, which made it even more of a sacrifice for them and their families,and putting more stress on these guys and their wives than usual.  It’s not easy when a father goes away for two weeks, especially when the kids are at home, hoping for some quality time with dad, days out, vacations, camping trips, etc.  I had a lot of respect that they were willing to make the sacrifice.  Eventually, I hope that I will be in the same position – after all, I‘ve got another 18 more years of “miluim” to go, until I hit age forty and can hang up the uniform permenantly! 

Tags: Beneath the Helmet, Israel, Army, IDF