"This is an enlistment exercise. You have eight hours to get to the base," said a voice on the phone Monday afternoon. Immediately the phone tree to friends from the reserve unit was activated; no one thought of blowing off the training exercise. After the Lebanon war, we all knew reserve unit training is important. Or is it?
A few hours after the call, two friends and I headed for the headquarters up north. When we arrived on base, we saw that the mess was already in full swing.
"Get a kitbag and a weapon," I was told. "The bag holds your emergency gear. Check that everything is inside." When I did, I discovered equipment that looked as if it had been used by Jewish fighters during the War of Independence.
We brought this up later with our battalion commander who said, "This is the last time you'll see such outdated equipment. Next time you'll have new supplies." Needless to say, I had heard the same sentence from his predecessor, in 1998.
The training exercises were amusing, if you ignored the fact that their purpose was to prepare us to implement similar maneuvers in the event of a real crisis. Sirens and artillery fire could be heard, but, for us, the exercise boiled down to hiding behind a military truck.
When military inspectors arrived they were baffled to see soldiers disoriented. Perhaps this was because no one had actually taken pains to brief us about the training exercise prior to starting it.
The planners of the exercise also seemed to have forgotten to take into account the need for soldiers to rest. Beds only arrived at three in the morning.
"It is regrettable, you are right," the commander said, in response to soldiers standing in the freezing cold.
At five in the morning, after barely any sleep, we returned to the exercise, where the commander of the anti-aircraft division apologized for passing on erroneous information.
If this training exercise was meant to serve the purpose of preparing soldiers for the eventuality of war, then blunders like these are a travesty and endanger the lives of reservists who dropped everything and came when they were called.
We have become used to the old equipment and the miscommunication between reservists and standing army soldiers. But we cannot come to terms with the mistreatment of reservists, an attitude that borders abandon, which was one of the main blunders of last summer's war against Hizbullah.
If, God forbid, war breaks out tomorrow, the situation will be very bad. At this rate, we will not win it.
The army said in response to complaints that only some of the equipment was old and that it would be replaced in the near future.
"The sample emergency depots recently examined were found to be well-kept and stocked as required, and soldiers were given the requisite equipment for full combat. Some of the equipment was indeed old but was being renewed and upgraded," the army said in a statement.
The statement said that IDF Chief of Staff Lit. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazy has made the issue of the reserves as his top priority since taking over from Dan Halutz last month.