In the IDF, the official way you keep your pant legs organized and your socks up is with a rubber band. No joke, they give you two rubber bands at the enlistment office with your uniform. When the rubber bands aren’t on my ankles, they’re on my wrist. Which, when I think about it, is kind of an odd juxtaposition to the hair ties I used to always wear on my wrist up until I had to cut my hair for the army.
For those who don’t know, my hair went from more than halfway down my back to a buzz cut back in November of 2009.
But ridiculously inappropriate hair for a soldier foreshadowing an integral part of said soldier’s future uniform isn’t the only weird thing about the army.
When I went through basic training, I realized something: more than sports, more than school, more than any other single aspect of my life up until that point, what had prepared me most to get through basic training in the IDF was my experience in theater.
How do you yell loud enough to satisfy a drill sergeant five years younger than you when you’re pretty sure you had a fever for all of the four hours you slept last night? I dunno, how did I fill a theater with my voice when I felt like crap?
How do you memorize a paragraph of technical words in a language you don’t understand in the 10 minutes you have while the rest of your group, who knows exactly what they’re saying, is being tested? I dunno, how did I memorize half of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy on the bus the day that I was supposed to recite all of it in front of the school? (What? It’s not like anybody noticed that I skipped the other half)
What best prepared me to learn hand-to-hand combat? Fight choreography.
What best prepared me for formation marching? Curtain calls.
What best prepared me to fire an assault rifle? Nintendo.
Okay, so Nintendo isn’t technically at all related to theater. But even Nintendo helped me more than things you might expect, like flag football, or maybe world history.
Those things aren’t really all that important.
The ability to make yourself feel like a soldier, even when you’re not one, is probably the one thing that can help a person the most when going through basic training.
Assuming, of course, that one was not a soldier to begin with. But the IDF is kind of… special in that regard.