Last week I started a serie about my time in the Army during my Obligatory military service. At the end of this post you can find a link to the other part(s). My idea to write about this came from the news that on Morocco they are planning to re-introduce the obligatory service again. It reminded me at myself servicing the army when it was still obligated.
It's funny to see the memories comming back at full speed. I thought at first that it would be a serie of two or maybe three posts, but while writing so many (great and less great) things came back. It would be a shame not to mention those.
For some reason it is still common that soldiers have be able to march long distances. Especially nowadays you would expect that there are other ways to travel long distances, but it still is something for the basic training of soldiers.
During our training we had to march too, the first one was one of 40 KM and everybody hated it. The main reason eas because of our boots (see photo). These were the kind of boots you have to have walked in for at least 3 months before they even fitted well. So the boots weren't prepared to walk already such a distance. I remember that a lot of us guys had major blisters on out feet and almost couldn't walk for two days after the march.
So when we heard another march was comming I made a appointment with the military physiotherapist because (I was sure about it) I wouldn't survive another march on those terrible boots :). The physiotherapist had a look at my feet and said that my feet were ruined by constantly wearing sneekers in my youth, and that that was the reason of my blisters and massive pains. So he wrote a prescription for our sergeant that I could walk the next march on my Nike's :)
At that moment I could not care less what the reason could be for my painfull feet, I didn't have to do it again on those terrible boots.. Mission accomplished. :) A lot of my fellow 'victims' were jealous at me because they still had to wear those boots.. :)
24 hours watchkeeping
Part of the training was the so called "24 hours Watchkeeping", although they said it was part of the training I thought it was just a easy way to have enough 'employers' for this job. The purpose of the task was to secure the barracks from uninvited guests and to check everybody at the gate. You were in a team of a couple of soldiers, a watchcommander and a few civilian security guards. There were two kinds of duties:
- access control at the gate
- Securing the area, walking around the compound to check fences and illegal entry of the barracks.
The shift was 24 hours without any sleep, you had one hour of work and one hour of rest for 24 hours long.
With every shift you had to do the same ritual with your weapon (because you were walking around with real bullets). Before you entered the guardhouse you had to unload your weapon, perform some security checks and give the bullets to the chief of operations. This was repeated every shift you had.
Because our barracks were close to Antwerpen (Belgium) a lot of armypersonel went out at night to Antwerpen. This resulted that every night it was quite busy at the gate with solders returning from a evening out, and yes some of them had a bit to much alcohol in them. I remember one guy, when I was on duty at the gate, getting angry cause I couldn't let him in. He forgot his military passport so I wasn't allowed to let him in. He called me names and threatened to come and look for me when I was of duty. Although I wasn't impressed by his action I did reported it to the commander because we had to when someone was making troubles. Later on I heard that he was put in detention on the barracks because he caused a lot more trouble afterwards. And one thing I do know, you don't want to be arrested by the Military Police....
When securing the area you walked along the fences with the civilian security guard. I remember walking with some older guy who already worked there for many years. walking aong the fences wasn't as easy as it may sound because a lot of fences where covered by bushes. The guard told me the reason why we really had to check on the fences. It turned out that some activists (against the army) have broken into the compound recently by cutting the fences and after that they have demolished things. Instantly it was much more exciting :)
When you had a hour of duty in the 24 hours shift you could sit down in a small room where there was some magazines, drinks and sandwiches. As I told already you weren't aloud to sleep or even take a powernap. To check upon that they placed a camera in the room. The chief in command could watch on screen if someone was falling asleep.
I think they had learned from the past with that. When it was my turn to take a break again (being already awake for about 16 hours) I dozed of a little. While I didn't noticed anything they approached me silently and yelled very loud in my ear, I jumped up like a madman. After that I didn't fall asleep anymore. I still don't know the use of staying awake in your time off, I guess it had something to do with 'making a man out of you " :)
The last weeks of training
In our 8 weeks of training we learned a lot, we've learned to become a basic soldier with a certain speciality (for our group Land Rover driver). After the training you were placed at a other part of the army somewhere in Holland, I first was placed at the staff platoon for the communication troops in Ede, Holland.
Before the end of our training we arranged that we would go to Antwerp with the whole battalion at night. So of we went. One of the guy's suggested to visit a sex-cinema, just for fun.. And of course as following we were we agreed. Well, I can tell you, that's really something....something awkward.. A big group of guys watching porn together in a cinema, giggling and making fun while in the back of the cinema a mid-age couple was watching the same movie and later on doing IT themselves..... It was the first and last time for me ever setting foot in a cinema like that :) But it was fun !!
in Antwerp we partied all night and visited the well known bar 'In den Ossepoot" , (I just read it was already closed for some years now). Of course, when your having fun, time flies but also the alcohol consumption. I remember comming back at the barracks in the middle of the night. Next morning at the morning gathering in front of the building some where still under the influence of alcohol, it was a though day afterwards, but boy did we had fun.
The last friday before we went all our own way to different stations we had a buffet with our family at the barracks.
You could show your family around and show them where you had been the last weeks :)
We had to wear the 'Dagelijks Tenue", a kind of military suit for special occasions. Most of us felt like monkeys in it...Lucky for us it was the only occasion we ever worn.
The next story will be about my first experience in my new role as a Land rover driver in Ede.
See also the other parts in this (true) story
Part one of this story
Part two of this story
Part three of this story
Parth four of this story
Thanks for reading,
Have a great day
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