A Question of Rank

Elie was promoted a rank a few weeks ago. Previously, he was a Sergeant, as indicated by the three stripes worn on the uniform on the upper arms. Before that, he was a corporal, as indicated by the two stripes that he didn’t wear on the upper arms of the uniform.

“Why don’t you wear two stripes?” I asked him many months ago.

“Only jobniks wear two stripes,” he answered. He’s not a jobnik – he’s a combat soldier. Elie said jobnik in much the way a Linux programmer speaks of a Windows programmer. I once asked Elie why he didn’t pin his beret to his uniform, rather than having it dangling precariously from his shoulder.

“Only jobniks do that,” he answered. But, ahem, I said, it’s logical. It’s convenient. It makes sense. Never mind, it is part of the army culture ingrained in the soldiers. In the mind of a combat soldier, a jobnik’s purpose often revolves around the combat unit. Jobniks are essential to the army on so many levels, and far outnumber the combat units in size. But it is the nature of the sacrifice the combat soldiers are prepared to make, that effects people. If you have a son or daughter in the army, no matter what they do, you are considered a part of Israel – but if you have a son or daughter in a combat unit, people warm to you more quickly, ask how you are doing, how your son is, where he is in a different way, a different tone.

Elie is now a First Sergeant. The difference, though I haven’t seen it, seems to be a pin placed in the center of the sergeant stripes he has been wearing since he graduated from the Commander’s Course almost a year ago. For some reason, the ceremony that was supposed to officially raise his rank has not taken place. He’s got the rank, but not the official pin that will be placed in the center. If Elie leaves off his commander’s bars completely, his commanding officer will give him problems.

When I was hanging up his laundry this weekend, I noticed one of the patches was separated from the uniform. I pointed this out to Elie, and was told “put it in the pocket”. That’s when he mentioned that if he didn’t have at least one set of stripes pinned to his uniform, he’d get problems from his commanding officer.

“What sort of problem?” I asked Elie.

“He’ll come over and pinch my arms where the bars are supposed to be.”

“Don’t you want to reattach it?” I asked.


“Aren’t you supposed to wear it on both sides?”


Um…okay. “Elie, if you’re supposed to wear it, why aren’t you?”

“Because it isn’t right.”

“What do you mean, it isn’t right?”

“I didn’t get the pin yet. I got the rank, but not the pin. The stripes without the pin isn’t right.”

I’m really trying to understand this conversation. “So what does that have to do with not wearing the second set of stripes?”

“It shows that it isn’t correct.” That’s when Elie explained that if he doesn’t wear any commander’s stripes at all, his commanding officer is going to come over and pinch him in the place where the commander’s stripes should be. So long as he’s got one on, the officer won’t care, and Elie is showing that his rank isn’t “sergeant” and, follow along here…since he IS wearing the sergeant’s stripes, but isn’t a sergeant, he must be a First Sergeant.

I’m really not sure I’m explaining all this but it comes down to another one of those very Israeli things that you just have to understand that they understand.

So, though it isn’t official, Elie is now a First Sergeant in the army of Israel and, that makes ME…a First Sergeant’s Mother! Tell me that isn’t cool!

5 Comments on A Question of Rank

  1. Very cool and congratulations. The US military does something similar in that in “promotes” you but you really aren’t promoted yet until a certain day – – I think its something like being “First Sergeant select”. The bad thing is you also don’t get your pay raise until the “Official” pinning on of rank.

    I think I understand where Elie is coming from – -something about “if it can’t be done correctly, don’t do it at all.”

    Congratulations First Sergeant’s mom!

  2. It is not only regular Israeli society that, rightfully, acknowledges the sacrifice of the combat soldier. It seems that by many young men, the status of being a combat soldier is a sign of being “more” of a man. My son who is currently in the army wanted to be in a combat unit, but didn’t have enough secular knowledge to do well on the army’s intelligence tests, so they put him in as a “jobnik”. So what did he do? He found a “job” that puts himself in danger every week: driving Oketz fighters and dogs to various places around the country, often this being into arab areas. Not only is there the possibility that an arab might TRY and purposely wreck into him, my son says that there is no traffic control, the Arabs drive like maniacs, and that they can easily kill without trying….
    My next son also wants combat, and is studying some bagrut items… (not to further his chances someday to get a job, as I had hoped)… to pass the army test!

  3. Congratulations from another artillery First Sergeant (Reserves, retired).

  4. Congratulations to mom and son! You both should be proud…

  5. Congrats! When my son turned seargant I felt so proud I could burst. So who cares if we make our kids’ accomplishments our own?!
    And you should be so proud that he won’t put on those stripes yet – this is part of what they really do foster in the army – be the best you can be and don’t take kudos that you haven’t earned. I love that this is what our kids are learning.

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