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January 01, 1993 - Image 122

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-01-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ors°

`Commander America

Reserve duty can be
a rewarding break from the
grind of civilian life.

STEVEN MARCUS

T

el Aviv — In Israel,
official government
mail arrives in brown
manila envelopes.
And that's where one
recognizes one's reserve call-
up orders.
When you spot the
envelope, you often curse
about the disruption to your
family life, your studies or
your employment. But un-
derneath it all, especially if
one is being assigned to a
permanent unit, there is a
feeling of nostalgia and a
yearning to see one's
buddies, retell old stories
and new jokes and, in gener-
al, take a breather from the
11-month grind of civilian
life.
After a year and a half of
readjustment to civilian life,
following two years in the
regular army, I recently re-
ceived the envelope. My
worries, however, were not
those of a student, family
man or independent earner.
I was more concerned with
other questions: Where will
we be sent? Will our compa-
ny commander be a nice guy,
a nudnik or a wimp? Will the
guys be right out of the
army, young fathers, mid-
dle-aged or a mix? Will they
have served in the infantry,
as I had, or will they be
drawn from various units?
My questions are an-
swered soon enough.

Steven Marcus, a native of
Los Angeles, made aliyah in
1985. He served in the Israel
Defense Force from 1986 to
1988. This article first ap-
peared in The Bridge, a quar-
terly publication of Parents of
North American Israe-
lis. Copyright Jewish
Telegraphic Agency.

As I am signing out
equipment at my home base,
the guys start to drift in.
Each is met with a cheer and
a few back-slapping
bearhugs. One, a bearded
kippah-wearer, is greeted
with, "Hey, here's our com-
munications liaison!" — a
reference to the fact that his
praying may intercede with
the Powers Above.
My unit of second-line in-
fantry is composed mainly
of men from their early 30s
to mid-40s. I am one of five
under 30. Most are ex-
infantry, with a smattering
of various other combat and
semi-combat unit veterans.
Our company commander
has all the leadership value of
a springless couch, a crucial
flaw in an officer.
I am the only new im-
migrant and the only Amer-
ican. My name becomes, at
various times, "Stevie
Wonder," "Steve McGar-
rett," "Steve McQueen"
and, most popularly,
"Steven Austin." Almost
anything, that is, but my
real name.
Our first day in Gaza, we
are rudely awakened at 4:30
a.m. by the muezzin at the
local mosque calling the
faithful either to prayer or to
incitement. Usually, it is
both. I decide to counter this
intrusion on my precious
sleep. I stroll up to the dirt
embankment of our base and
bellow out, "Good morning,
Gaza!" a la Robin Williams
in the movie, "Good Morn-
ing, Vietnam." It has since
become my calling card in
the territories, although it
does not ward off stones or
Molotov cocktails.
My first time on the two-
way radio I hear: "Who's
this? The new American
guy?" The use of names is
frowned upon in radio com-

Serving in the Israeli reserves is a social, as well as a military, experience.

munications, so I answer:
"Affirmative, this is the
`American Soldier.' " Later,
in deference to my rank of
sergeant and position as
squad leader, I accord my-
self the radio name of
"Commander America."
(Unfortunately, "Captain
America" doesn't work in
Hebrew and, besides, few Is-
raelis have heard of the com-
ic book hero.)

In our zone of responsibili-
ty, a long main boulevard
runs through two pre-1967
neighborhoods and two ref
ugee camps, which are more
like slums than shanty-
towns. Along this boulevard
we maintain three rooftop
observation posts, four guys
to a roof, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In that time, one can eat A_/
zillion sunflower seeds, play'
dozens of backgammon

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