This article originally appeared on VICE Greece
Military conscription was first introduced in Greece in 1909, following a coup that brought prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos to power. Since then, the length of the service has changed at times to reflect the country's political situation. In 2009, it was decided that mandatory military service in Greece would last for nine to 12 months for men between the ages of 19 and 45, and that's still the case today.
Besides the horrible food and the fact they waste a year of their lives sitting around doing absolutely nothing, Greek guys also have to face a number of hazing rituals designed to humiliate new recruits and entertain old ones. I asked some friends of mine to share some stories from their "good old army days."
"I chose to serve my time in the Special Forces, so I was prepared to get hazed. I'd heard countless stories about having to sprint while carrying your full armament, endless crawls in the mud and timed team showers, but nothing could prepare me for the initiation ceremony that old recruits have aptly named 'The Nausea.'
"It was my first week on duty and we'd just finished eating, when the whole unit was told we were to exercise until someone vomited. And so we did—we ran, we jumped, we climbed, we did push-ups and crunches in the blaring sun until this one guy kneeled down on the ground and begun to retch grains of rice and a horrible green liquid. I still don't know how I managed to keep myself from doing the same when I saw what was coming out of his mouth."
"My unit was on kitchen duty when it started raining. In fact, I was peeling potatoes when an officer walked in and handed us a bunch of newspapers and bottles of cleaning spray and told us to go wipe the windows of the building from outside while it was raining. Basically, the whole exercise was pointless because the windows kept getting wet again and again and again."
"About ten of us newbies entered our room after training, when a group of older recruits called us to attention, leaving us to stand for about 15 minutes, I think just for fun. Then the oldest recruit, who was basically in charge, asked loudly: 'Who digs jukeboxes?' A tiny, scrawny guy dared to respond that he did, and so they picked him up and locked him in a clothes trunk.
For the next hour or so, they kept slipping coins through a crack in the trunk and he was obliged to sing a new song every time they did. This happened quite a few times over the next next year, but I dodged the bullet. I'm very tall, so they couldn't fit me in the trunk."
"Older recruits would make us stand up, arms stretched, holding a shelf with stuff on it. Under our hand they'd fasten a bayonet, so that if anyone got tired and their hand slipped, they'd get stabbed."
"I was part of the Evzones, or Presidential Guard, an elite unit that is supposed to guard the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Presidential Mansion, and the gate of Evzones camp in Athens. The Evzones are supposed to stay completely motionless and at attention for long intervals, so ensuring a soldier has the necessarily stamina and self-control is a big part of the Evzones training and the hazing surrounding it. I had to stand motionless and at attention for half an hour while three older recruits tried to provoke me. That included continuous slaps on the face and neck—which is referred to as "codfishing"—and covering my face and hair with shaving cream until I looked like a Smurf.
The hazing was intense, but when I was an older recruit I could do whatever I felt like—for instance, I could make anyone freeze just by shouting, 'Freeze!'"
"Every time a general or other 'top brass' inspected our chambers, they'd find stains and dirt in the toilets and showers. Every single time, we had to clean the toilets and the showers with our toothbrush. It's one of the most common and disgusting hazing rituals in the army."
"We had just finished an evening report so the officer on duty—a well-known asshole —sent us all upstairs to our quarters. Just after we'd laid down he called us all downstairs again, because supposedly we were making noise. He did this a few times, and every time we had to get to his office in full gear—gun, helmet, boots, everything—as if we were about to go to war. Then he made us march for an hour. It was 1AM when he finally let us sleep.
The tragedy was that some of us had watchtower duty after, or service in the morning, so we basically didn't sleep at all. He was a brute, the definition of an army nut."
"Early in the morning, it's inspection time. The officers check if everything is clean and in place in the army chambers. They are particularly strict about the way you make your bed—the sheets and covers need to be folded in hospital corners. One morning I'd made mine perfectly, but they still completely stripped my bed, claiming that it wasn't good enough, and made me do it again. And again. And again. I had to make my bed five or six times before they were satisfied, just because they felt like hazing me."