After finishing the course to become and infantry instructor 8 of us were placed as sniper instructors. In addition to the 8 of us girls, 3 guys joined us in the course to become certified as sniper instructors as well. The guys joined the course for different reasons. One could no longer be a combat soldier due to health issues, another requested the position after being unhappy with his placement after completing commanders training, and the third is a volunteer who requested the position as well.
Running the course was our Officer, Eshed. Working below him were three sniper instructors, Kelly, Naama, and Gal. The girls had been in the position long enough to now train us.
The course to become certified as sniper instructors is a total of two and a half months. The first month and a half we take the course at the level of a soldier. In other words, we take the course exactly as we will eventually teach it. At the end of the month and a half we are certified as snipers. The last month then prepares us to be instructors.
The course takes place on a base called "Mitkan Adam." Most of the instructors remain on that base to certify soldiers as snipers. Some instructors move to one of 2 other bases to work with reserves.
Supposedly we arrived to the base at a good time because it is finally undergoing long overdue renovations. Living there however, in the midst of those renovations, I cannot say I felt those benefits.
Lets begin with the river running through the middle of the base, "Nahal Matof." Sure, like many of Israel's "rivers" Nahal Matof is for the most part a dried out indent in the ground. Still, once every ten or so years it rains hard enough to fill the river, causing some major problems on the base. That once every ten or so years turned out to be this year.
A few nights at home in my room on the Kibbutz cannot even be compared to the tent we slept in on base. The 8 of us girls shared a tent throughout the course while the guys had a real room.
The cots in our tent drooped low, the sides of the tent flew up with the wind, we learned which areas of the tent flooded when it rained at night, and spent a good hour at least once a week pulling the corners of the tent tighter in a sad attempt to deal with all of these problems.
The list of logistical issues on the base goes on...
The Course, Week One: We sign off on all kinds of sniper gear from the M-24 sniper gun to telescopes and night vision equipment. We are officially absorbed at the base and have our first lessons on the basics of the gun and equipment.
The Course, Weeks Two, Three, and Four: We learn in depth about the M-24, about the job of the spotter, and are assigned partners who we work with throughout the entire course. We learn how to direct our partner to the target, how to shoot both in the open field and from inside a building. We learn how to measure both the distance to a target and the wind. We learn how to make the proper adjustments to the gun according to these measurements. We learn how to make corrections if the first shot doesn't hit the target, how to adjust when shooting a moving target, how to shoot not just lying down but standing using a tripod, sitting using a tripod, sitting using a table, lying on a table, and practiced with exercises of all this both during the day and at night. Each week begins with a few lessons in the classroom but is mostly made up of work in one of the various shooting ranges.
During those three weeks we have 2 exercises where we practiced as if in a real life situation instead of in the shooting range. We set out in the night with all of our equipment on our backs, our faces painted for camouflage, rehearsing every step from the start to entering the post, preparations, waiting for orders, shooting, packing up everything, and hurrying quietly away.
We had "patience shooting" as well. Everyone is assigned a number and a corresponding target. We lie in a row in the shooting range waiting to hear our number, always ready and on our target. When your number is called you have 2 seconds to shoot. Time goes by in silence. Our Officer begins telling stories. The first number is called an hour and a half into us waiting. We finish after three hours.
The Course, Week Five: We begin learning about another sniper gun, the Barak. We learn about the gun itself and the equipment that goes along with it. We begin shooting with the gun both day and night. We learn different tactics of sniping with more than one gun and practice them in groups of four.
The Course, Week Six: We continue shooting with the Barak. We practice on moving targets and continue with more techniques of shooting. The majority of the week is spent in special shooting exercises.
The Course, Weeks Seven and Eight: We begin the second half of the course to become instructors. Everyone is assigned lessons from the course to study and teach to the rest of the group. After every lesson we are then taught in depth on each topic. At the end of every week is a test on the new material. The course is cut 2 weeks short and we finish after 2 months instead of 2 and a half months. We have a ceremony marking the end of the course and our certification as sniper instructors.
The night before we ordered pizza and celebrated with our staff.
Me and one of the other girls form the course, Shir, switch bases to work on Tzeilim. We will now be working with reserves for a week at a time, doing a refresher course with them and practicing everything they learned back in the course. Most of the reserves range from the age of 22-28.
For the first 2 weeks me and Shir mostly observe the 2 instructors who are already there and start working ourselves in the third week. A typical week begins with us getting to the base by 1pm on Sunday. My kibbutz is 15 minutes away so I now have lunch every Sunday with my host mom on the kibbutz before going back to the army. Sunday the reserves arrive on base and need to "become soldiers" again. They sign off on uniforms and equipment. Sunday evening one of us teaches a lesson (about an hour and a half long) that goes over everything the snipers need to know, a sort of refresher lesson. Monday we ride out to the shooting range and practice everything they should know but usually need to work on.
Tuesday is either more sniper shooting or a Targil a sort of exercise with the army imitating a combat situation.
Wednesday is usually another exercise. We observe the snipers during the exercise so we can later give them tips and help them improve. Thursdays we almost always leave base in the morning to head home.
The base itself is huge. The Shekem which on most bases is a small stand where you can buy some junk food is literally the size of a grocery store. Because there are so few instructors our Mador is made up of different types of infantry instructors (some girls from my first course and others who have been in the army longer but passed through that course as well).
Garin and Kibbutz Urim Stuff:
Every weekend on kibbutz at 5pm on Friday the Garin has Maagal Shabbat followed by our shortened version of Kabbalat Shabbat. We begin by going around in a circle giving everyone the chance to share what they did that week in the army. It was started by Ami, our Rakaz on kibbutz but has become a tradition that we all love.
Friday night dinner I always eat with my host family. After dinner and coffee I eventually head to the Kibbutz Pub with the two older boys in my host family, Tal and Shir, who have become two of my closest friends here on Kibbutz.
About a month ago we celebrated Purim here on the Kibbutz which was a lot of fun. There was a Purim party in the pub and most of the Kibbutz came.
Last weekend was our Garin Shabbat. Garin Tzabar ensures that on Garin Shabbat everyone is home from the army. My friend Ariel basically planned our entire schedule. Thursday night we all met in Beer Sheva at the VIP movie theater. There was a buffet dinner with wine and we saw the movie OZ in our own theater.
Friday morning we started with a tour and explanation of the agricultural research facility of the Negev. This was something our Rakaz Ami really wanted us to do. It turned out to be really interesting and we got to taste some delicious strawberries.
This was followed by an afternoon at the spa in all of the mineral pools. We ate Friday night dinner in the dinning hall with all of our families and set up a cafe outside with coffee and cakes for all of the Kibbutzniks. Of course there was pub Friday night. Saturday evening we held a potluck dinner for all of our host families thus concluding the weekend.
I now have a break from the army for Passover. I spent Seder with our cousins in Jerusalem and now on kibbutz.
More to come . . .