A view of the motherlands DNA from military service (2)
Upon getting some news that reminded me of the things I lived through, I wrote about my military training memories from the army. This week from the motherlands DNA view, I move onto the transition period from military training to mastery and stories from the army dormitory. And in my next piece, I will write about my memories from the Brigade Headquarters, the time of discharge and some recommendations regarding the army.
It was clear where everyone was going after the military training. Some of our short-term soldiers were given tasks of education sergeants, some as writers, some in charge of the soldiers club and different areas of the brigade, and some continued as soldiers in Denizli’s province of Soke. I got chosen to take role in the main management area of the Brigade Headquarters. I was appointed to the IT department of the Brigade Headquarters. Although I had no foundations of computer engineering, because I could use and understand computers, I was designated to run the whole information process for the brigade. When one of my good friends was appointed to the Intelligence area, the other was appointed as a clerk in the dorm we were in. To be honest, because we were all short-term soldiers, we were all divived amongst the brigade, which meant I had known people in all areas. We got along immediately with my friends in the IT department. I fell into a really good environment. From my perspective however, it was short lived.
After spending 3 weeks in the IT department, I was moved to the commanders level, next to the Brigade Commander. We had one general in the brigade which was the Brigade Commander. Along with the brigade, we also had a staff colonel. There was an order adjutant assisting the both of them and I was appointed as his order soldier. In other words, like in the private sector, I was the assistant to the assistant who looked after the two most authoritative officers. They also gave me an extra task as an English teacher. Both of my roles were easily manageable.
When the army gets a mothers touch
When I was working in the IT department, I took my ‘home’ leave. It was the first thing I started when I came back to the army, to prepare my leave process. I had learnt how to draft this when I was in military training. I had put this in my mind during the 20 day holiday I took after the military training. I started the procedure the minute I returned. The soldiers were always using their ‘market’ leave days, but I’d prefer to be away for the weekends, spent at home. This was no easy process. Firstly, one of your first degree relatives, mother or father had to rent a house in the region near the brigade. They had to have their residence permits changed to that region. There were many other things like this that had to be fulfiled. And no soldier could bare to go ahead with this. Even if they could complete all these steps, they didn’t think they’d be allowed permission like this. I overthrew that preconception. Thanks to my mother, she did all the necessary things without question to make this happen. She literally carried her home over to Denizli. By this way, I was able to take home leave within 3 weeks. After me, 3-4 soldiers also took this leave.
My other request from my mother was regarding bedsheets. The bedsheets we were using in the dorms literally turned brown. Don’t misunderstand it like it was a close tone either. It was possibly due to them bring dirty or from being overused, that they had turned brown from their off-white color. I am very meticulous when it comes to my bed, for this reason, the bedsheets there, were making me really uncomfortable. I requested from my mother and she bought the whitest bedsheet set from Istanbul. My white bedsheets stood out like a sore thumb, shining in the centre of the dorm. But there was also another problem. Everyone in the dorm was stealing each others bedsheets. Infact, they’d even do it while you were sleeping. As a precautionary measure, I requested from the dorm officer to instead of doing up my bed everyday, to lock up my white bedsheets in my locker. Thankfully, they allowed this and didn’t make it a problem.
A lynch attempt to the dorm rat
We weren't just seeing theft in bedding. We experienced the odd theft of other things during the 7 months we spent in the dorm. During my military time, the theft started to increase around the month of March. Everyday, something was being stolen. Complaints about this were getting louder and more vocal. That’s why I was being very careful. I never left my locker unlocked. Even if I moved away for 10 seconds, I'd still keep it locked. Towards the end of March, one night there was a huge cry from the dorm ‘I caught the thief, come here you jerk!’. Following this cry, everyone got up. I walked towards where the noise was coming from and understood what had happened when I got there. Two or three of the soliders were alledging that they found the solider who was stealing everyone's belongings. They made him open up his locker and voila, many of the belongings of some were in there. At once, about 20 of the soldiers walked upon the thief. They were going to lynch him. At first I was watching from the side, when I noticed they were going to lynch him. I got up to intervene. 10 other people joined me to help break it up. It was really crowded, everything turned to dust and the brawl continued onto the dressing rooms and dormitory. In the end, we succeeded to stop the lynching. We managed to pick the guy up from the floor who had received some beating to his face and handed him over to the related chief. After a short period of questioning, they sent him to the ‘disco’. The ‘disco’ in the army was refered to the place where soldiers were locked up. We were busy calming down the friends who were still angry about their belongings that were stolen.
While on the topic of being crowded, there was 350 of us staying in a 300 person dorm. I'll explain how this was. We were all sleeping on bunk beds. They had joined the bunk beds, and on some they had a soldier lying in between. Joining two single beds meant it increased the capacity to take a third person in between them. In some infact, 6 people were sleeping on some of the joint bunk beds. I chose to sleep on the top bunk because the bottom bunks would get dirtier much more quickly. Soldiers coming from everywhere would use the bottom bunks to sleep on. Because it took much more effort to use the top bunks, they wouldn't dare to go up to the top in their boots. When I saw this, I chose the top bunk as a matter of hygiene. And I took a friend next to me from military service, Serkan from Samsun. I warned this sympathetic friend of mine to ‘never accept another in between us, dont allow anyone who attempts to’.
350 heads mean 700 feet!
Serkan and I both kept to this principle. We didnt ever take anyone between us. At the beginning, everyone was asking us why, but soon after everything settled in the dorm, no one attempted to even try.
So no one steals our blankets during the night, we’d take them in between our legs. We had an agreement about the risk of things being stolen with Serkan. If we saw either ones property getting stolen, we would take the necessary action. In a dormitory of 350 people, we had to support this kind of enivornment. Thankgod, we had a high number of short-term soldiers in our dorm, so we were all looking out for each other.
And of course, I also need to state another thing. 350 people meant 700 feet. I cannot explain in words to you the smell of the boots in the change room next to our dorm. Even when I write this, I am reminded of the smell which made my stomach turn. But after some time, you get used to that smell. You have to, you have no other choice.
On the topic of smell, for someone who showered everyday, sometimes even twice, I had to adopt to the environment I was in. I tried to shower at the army everyday. But some days, this was not possible. I once broke a record by not showering for 5 days. The water would be cut off for some time. At a time when I couldn’t take ‘house’ leave, the water was cut off for a week. I was going to go crazy. I couldn’t shower. Ultimately, being clean was a basic need for me. At the end of the fifth day, four friends and I lost our minds and decided to hose ourselves outside while it was snowing. It was seriously cold, we were all shaking but we were happy. In the end, we got cleaned up. We returned immaculately clean. Of course, after seriously drying ourselves up, we wrapped ourselves up in our blankets.
The weakest period against love
Some of our soldier friends in our dorm were revellers. While our freedom was limited, they’d call and speak to their families, girlfriends, fiances and wives via the handset telephone. I'll give women a tip about this. A man’s most incapable time is when he is at the army. If you want to make a guy fall in love with you, the best time is while he is in the army. I came across many exmaples of this. Infact one of my closest friends used to speak to his girlfriend via the handset for at least an hour each day. In the last two months of the army, he started to say things like ‘I'm so in love bro, I'm going to marry this girl’. And I’d say ‘you can't think logically right now, the right thing is not to get married once you get discharged. At least remain friends for another six months and then decide. Your heads not in the right place. If you make the wrong deicision, it’ll be sad for the both of you’. He kept saying ‘you’re right’, but at the same time, his desire to marry her was increasing. After his army finished, he married her within two months. Three months after marrying her, he started saying things like ‘what did I do?’. He said that he didn't feel real love towards her but valued her more as a friend. He remained married for a further 3 years in a bid about worrying ‘what would happen to her after me’. In the end, it was a waste of time for both my friend and his ex-wife.
I witnessed many other similar relationships like this. As I said, men are more sensitive when at the army. I even came across a guy trying to commit suicide thinking his ex-girlfriend was dating another guy. As I speak about this topic, you may have wondered what was going on in my personal life during the army. But as I previously wrote, I prefer not to write about my private life or sensitive political topics in my blog. I prefer to write about interesting things I’ve experienced instead.
For example, one day my duties finished early in the Brigade Headquarters. I had spare time. So I started doing some exercises on my own. While I was doing pushups, as I lifted my head, I noticed two soldiers talking as they were looking at me. When I asked them what was up, they said they never saw anyone volunteering to exercise. I replied that I was doing this because I had gained weight and wanted to get fit.
‘You and the soldier you were to become...’
Truly, I was one of the rare soldiers to gain weight in the army. When most of my friends lost approximately 10 kilos (some got seriously fit), here I was gaining 7-8 kilos. The reason for this was, we were paying for foods like kebab and chicken skewers from the soldiers club, which we were entering through the back door. Of course, we were eating in the dining hall, but the tasty cheap food from the soldiers club seemed more appealing. We had two reasons why we were allowed to eat from there. Firstly, because we worked in the Brigade Headquarters, they’d turn a blind eye because we worked in the top level area where there was no notion of time. And also the officer in the soldiers club was our short-term period friend. Thankfully, he used to help us out alot. Imagine constantly being in front of a PC, doing minimal exercise and on top of that eating tasty food, of course I was going to gain weight.
Some of my friends completing the army with me would always make jokes about this ‘you and the soldier you were to become...’ in which they’d say and then joke about my weight. By the way, there were some friends losing 10-15 kilos and getting into shape and the majority would look like they suffered famine in Africa or something; but after leaving the army, they’d return to their old self within 3-4 months.
From bad driving to inexperienced hairdressing
There are so many things to say about the chain of illogical things that happened. For example, people in the career of HR, would conduct interviews and possibly pass some people in the tests. In the army however, this was random. For example, I witnessed a situation like this. A solider who was the driver for an officer, evenutally got the commander angry, and in the end, they said to him ‘you can't manage being a driver, go and do hairdressing for a bit’, and they sent him off. My friend was the first person's hair he had cut. Once he got his hair cut, he came to show us and it was so funny that we all had a laughing fit. My friend was literally a testing board for the inexperienced hairdresser; long in some places and cut quite short in others. He didn’t get a haircut, he got his hair torn out. Whilst the commander was trying to punish the soldier for not being a good driver, he actually indirectly punished the soldiers getting the haircuts.
Long-term soldiers and their tests with lens
This illogical chain sometimes wouldn't just come about from the fun the educated officers were having. It would truly stem from the seriously big gap in education of the long-term soldiers. Some who didn't know how to read or write, couldn't speak Turkish and imagine men that just didn't have simple manners. Some of the stories that would come about was an outcome of their actions. I'll give you another example. One night, I returned to the dorm after I finished all my work. After I brushed my teeth in the bathroom, I removed my lens. As I was putting the lens, which was on the tip of my index finger in its box, I noticed from the mirror four soldiers watching me from behind with full attention. I turned around and asked ‘what's up?’. Of the four soldiers who were from the East, one said ‘what is that thing on the end of your finger that looks like an onion shell’. Smiling, I replied ‘these are lens. Instead of using glasses, I use these to see the distance’. One of the other soldiers jumped to say ‘can I wear them too?’. Laughing, I replied ‘no, only one person can use these. Because I put these in my eyes, it is important that they are clean, so that’s why I can’t give them to you, but I can show you how to use them’ and I demonstrated with the one on my fingertip. When it was in my eye I said ‘see, I can read all the details of that sign over there’ and continued to explain how it was used, and what it helps to do. They enjoyed the demonstration. Infact one of them even asked ‘is it possible for me to find these?’. I recommended he go and see an eye doctor. This was not the only health related issue I experienced.
It wasn’t a dorm watch, but a fever watch!
You came across things in the army you'd never think of. For example, once I spent all night at the PC and when I was returning to the dorm, towards the dawn, I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom, when suddenly a soldier came in and yelled ‘brother help me out’. I tried to figure out what was going on. His mouth and teeth were trembling. I quickly ran inside, grabbed a blanket and wrapped it round his back and asked ‘what’s the matter, are you cold?’ and he said ‘no brother, I need to go out to guard watch’ to which I asked ‘what guard watch?’ which he replied with the tremble of his mouth ‘I have a fever, its marsh fever!’. I then said in surprise ‘Marsh fever! Is there still such a thing in Turkey’ and he said ‘yes brother, I’m from Bolu and I have been putting up with this for years’. His shaking was getting deeper and heavier. I said ‘hold on, let me get the doctor’ and I quickly went out to grab him.
First, I notified the night duty chief. Then we bought the hospital doctor to our ward. They immediately took the soldier to the hospital. The next morning they told me his fever had calmed down and he had regained health. I remember thinking to myself ‘what will I see next?’.
In the end, you realise that health is the most important thing. Be yourself, but never underestimate the value of your health.