Friday, 8 January 2010
My military service (Part 2)
So, I walked through the gate of my first military base, where I would be trained to be a proper (yeah right) soldier. First, a sergeant around my age took me to a small room next to the gate where they would go through my stuff to see if I’d try to smuggle in the base something illegal. A soldier took my bag, opened it and went through it fast and not very thoroughly. I could have taken anything I wanted with me without it being noticed. Probably the soldier was amazingly bored and was not bothered to do a proper job. I had hidden though a small (for that time) mp3 player and a mobile phone in the back of my bag.
There were other ‘civilians’ with me in the same small room. You could easily spot them (the ones with normal clothes). We weren’t talking to each other though. We didn’t know if we were allowed to (better to be safe than sorry) and we weren’t in a very happy mood anyway. When a considerable amount of us was gathered, another sergeant took us to the main building were we would spent the rest of the day in queues waiting for things to happen.
So, there was a queue to declare your personal information, a queue to give your personal ID card (a new military ID would be given to us for that year), a queue to give your chest x-ray to a military doctor (it was asked beforehand), a queue to take your height and weight measurement etc. You get the picture. There were so many queues that after a while the whole procedure became a blur to me. I was doing as asked without a second thought.
In a nutshell, we went through all bureaucratic information they had to have for their records, we applied for a new military ID (had photos taken), given blood to check for our blood type and diseases, took 4 different shots (that the guy giving them to me didn’t tell me what they were that really pissed me off but there was nothing I could do) and were given clothes / boots / shocks / military bags and equipment required for my stay (even toilet paper – everyone had their own) and were allocated in different regiments.
At some point, we had a break and were taken for food. First day meal was ‘pastitsio’ which is considered to be a very good delicacy in Greece (they were probably trying to impress us). Food like that was not commonly provided as we would find out. By that time, we (the old civilians, now soldiers wannabe) felt more relaxed and started talking to each other. The people I was sitting with to eat were not people from my regiment, but people that were with me in the queue changing extravaganza so I tried to be friendly, but I knew that I would probably not see them or talk to them again. There were so many people joining the base that day, it was crazy.
Regarding the stories I had heard of the naked / gay tests (I mentioned in my last post) they were found to be untrue (of course). No one checked to see if my anus was bigger than normal or made me see other naked men to see if I’d get an erection. The only thing that happened that could be put in that same category was a check of my most private parts. At some point, a dozen of us were taken to a room (very cold room I might add) and were asked to take position between the specially arranged curtains so that we could not see each other. After we were there, we were asked to take our pants and underwear down and wait. I was getting a bit nervous about the whole thing but of course getting an erection was out of the question. I couldn’t get an erection at that moment, even if my life depended on it. After a while, a doctor appeared in front of me (the way I was standing I was just looking at the wall in front of me) sitting on a chair, looking at my naked bits. He told me to pull my foreskin up to check for infections and then to take a look at my balls to see if something was wrong. All the checks were performed by me and the doctor didn’t touch me at all (probably he wasn’t allowed to - thankfully). That doctor was the second guy and took a so close look at me naked (locker rooms don’t count). The first one was ‘A’. It’s quite funny thinking of it like that now…
I later found out that they also want to find the people with just one ball. One-testicle men aren’t allowed to join the army (seriously). There is always the danger of losing one of your balls in an accident (apparently) and they wouldn’t allow you to be totally barren. I really don’t know what the guy who made that rule was thinking but that is a fact! Maybe, in the past it was quite common for this kind of accidents to happen and they didn’t want the population of the country to be jeopardized. Maybe, they thought that men with only one testicle were not men enough to serve the country (who knows?)… There are many regulations like that that stayed for generations without being changed.
Anyway, my first day in the army was really busy. I was able to get to my regiment and find a bed late in the evening. We were 42 men in the same room. My platoon was the 3.1 (3rd regiment, 1st class). I was advised (by people that recently finished their service) to get a bed close to the window (to get some fresh air and avoid the stink of all these people in the same room) but not too close to avoid the draft. I was also advised to get one of the lower beds of a bunk, because it is not that easy to be inspected. We also had in the same room a sergeant in training to keep us in control and guide us for the first days of our training.
I met the people in the adjacent beds and made some small talk. They were people from totally different backgrounds. The guy next to me was called Costas and was a professional fisherman never to leave his island. The guy on the same bulk bed as me was from Athens and abandoned his mechanical studies for a year to get his military service over with. The guy on the other bed was a geographer graduate who I had many things in common with, regarding our studies background. It was a very good and encouraging thing to discover that these people was in the exact same place as I was, worried about what would happen. It was very reassuring to see that.
However, I do remember not sleeping very well that night. I was very worried about the following months and felt very uncomfortable in that strange and hostile environment. The noise of all the other people snoring was not very helpful either.