A vial of patchouli scent has been accompanying the 202 Auxiliary Company for over 30 years. Each soldier and some members of staff keep the mascot close to their hearts – a small vial on a string around their necks.
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Some of the soldiers fill the vials with their girlfriends' perfume or their own cologne. The myth claims that the substance includes fluid secreted from a woman's body. The Paratroopers Brigade has tried to abolish the custom a number of times over the past 20 years but without success.
The last attempt was made three years ago leading the soldiers to revolt and the patchouli was allowed back in.
Brigade Commander Colonel Amir Baram has now decided to ban the practice and on Monday Battalion Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Itamar Ben-Haim announced the decision to the troops who reacted harshly to the decision.
Officers in the Brigade claim that the custom is disrespectable to say the least, is offensive to women and is behavior unworthy of IDF combat soldiers.
On the other hand, the troops claim that the decision has caused morale to plummet with some soldiers considering whether to go to their posts, carry out patrols and administrative tasks.
The IDF Spokesman's Office said that the soldiers continue to train and "carry out their tasks in keeping the residents of the north safe."
It further stated that "eradicating the phenomenon is an ideological step meant to ensure that the ethic and moral codes and spirit of the IDF, the brigade, and the battalion are are maintained.
'It's what makes us unique'
"After reaching the decision the battalion commander discussed the matter with the troops and knowing the history of the mascot, explained the importance of the issue."
One soldier told Ynet: "This is our mascot; it's what distinguishes us from the other troops in the army long before many of the officers who made the decision were even born. Any combat soldier from Maglan or Shayetet who sees a paratrooper with the patchouli knows that he's from Auxiliary 202."
The soldier added that he did not understand why the mascot was being banned as it "doesn't bother anyone else…"It's a mythological symbol that spurs the troops forward and some of the soldiers 'inherited' it (the patchouli) from soldiers who were discharged years ago."
A senior official within the Paratroopers Brigade explained that "the troops are disgruntled over the move…we didn't think they would see it any other way. At the moment, no one has left their post and everyone is carrying on with their tasks. There were two soldiers who said they wanted to leave, but eventually came back.
"Morale and the soldiers' frame of mind is important to us but more important are our values. Anyone who refuses to carry out an order will face the usual consequences."
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