It was early 2010. My team and I had just dismounted a ‘David’ (Land Rover Defender). The insertion point was just outside of Lapid, a small settlement located on the border with the West Bank. The insertion point was around two kilometers outside the village, in a beautiful grove, totally dark and illuminated by light from nearby Lapid and other settlements.

The grove was a small forest, overlooking the settlement that we were preparing to infiltrate. Streets were nearly empty and only a few cars drove by here and there—an illusively peaceful environment. After all, it was almost midnight. Quickly, I assembled my guys, did a head count, and began to egress toward the target as planned. In those moments, everything you’ve trained for and learned runs through your head. Excitement is high, so is the heartbeat. The possibility of getting caught in the process got the little kid in me thrilled, but still, I was focused. This was unlike any other dry training we’d done in the past.

RMT: What is it?

RMT, simply put, is a training exercise that is being done in a responsive environment and not in your own backyard. It’s like playing in a sandbox, but in a playground that does not belong to you, which makes it more fun and more real. RMT stands for ”real military training,” and is highly realistic, as the name suggests. The outcomes are quite real. For instance, one time, a couple came out of a bar in Tel Aviv so drunk, they didn’t even recognize they had just passed four guys in full assault kit.

Our task for this night’s exercise was quite simple: In the center of the village there was a construction site, a classic one with high fences, tons of debris, and dust. The course cadets were split into teams of four to six guys. Our objective was to get to the front doorway of a designated house and to place on the floor one M4 magazine. To make it trickier, we had to do so with a specific (marked) magazine, so if the carrier of said magazine were to get caught, your mission would be over. Of course, we had to get back within the time limit to exfil, too.

Just like kids, he who gets first, wins. To add more to the excitement of this soon-to-be mental roller coaster, the course instructors were patrolling the streets in both mounted and dismounted patrols. Since most of them were SF guys, it was quite challenging. Of course, the patrols had no repeating pattern.

As soon as we completed phase one—we successfully crossed an inferior field—we found ourselves in a different working space: urban. We moved slowly around the village outskirts via the primary route I had previously planned. Since I never follow traditional rules, that primary route contained a lot of residents’ backyards and dark places, and involved climbing over fences, as the streets were simply too bright.

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The egress pattern was simple and quite effective, helping us to bypass most of the ”outer ring” patrols. I was like a kid in a toy store. The excitement and the possibility of getting caught in the act made it so stressful that one hour later, I was already soaking wet (the exercise was in the winter). It had been almost an hour when we encountered a few surprises. We could already see the initial target. I notified my crew, and we were about to climb into the last backyard—the last phase that separated us from our target.

To give a clear picture, we had to climb over a meter-and-a-half-tall wall and cross a 10-meter-wide backyard into a car port. From the car port, a main road separated us from the target. There was no intel support, only our memory and the effort we gave earlier in learning all egress routes and back-up plans. In addition to all of that, the inner security ring of the OBJ was heavily patrolled—again, in an irregular pattern.

So here we go. My buddy, who was a 76 member, did a quick check for any obstacles in the way and gave me his green light to climb up. When I jumped down from the fence, I discovered many new textures that we couldn’t see before. I moved into the corner to cover our weak points. While doing so, my backpack got caught on a garden faucet and turned it on. That was when I—again—realized how important and realistic this RMT training was for us.

The faucet spat an enormous amount of water—an incredible noise at this time of the night. At that moment I was on autopilot. I was going quickly through the OODA procedure—Orient, Observe, Decide, and Act—and signaled my buddies to freeze. While doing so, I set a timer on my Casio for 40 seconds, figuring doing so would hopefully transmit a ”business as usual” kind of sound. I made this decision while knowing that maybe the house resident would wake up.

Since it was winter, I assumed that the windows would be closed, and that assumption promoted my decision. Later, in the after-action review (AAR), I would learn that this decision prevented one of the alerted patrols from going and checking what it was, as they assumed the noise would turn off immediately should a cadet have been responsible.

So there we are, on the front of the house behind a terrace. A small wall and gate were between us and the two patrol groups. In total, four guys were static. I looked at my watch and realized my window of opportunity was getting tighter. I knew that we needed to separate their defense ring by forcing them to communicate under pressure. Since I knew that those patrols were made up of people from different tactical backgrounds, I figured they might communicate differently when under pressure. I realized I had a needle, and now I knew which balloon to hit.

At that moment, we were facing a situation that most standard military training doesn’t offer: mental overload. At some point, your senses and the strain on your physical fitness overload your mental processing. The environment is real, and you are required to come up with a solution. It’s pretty much like sending up a spaceship; you only get one goddamn try.

Eventually, by using the other two guys in my crew, we fooled the patrol and led them into the location of another team, forcing the OPFOR to communicate and to come up with a COA. Since their entire work was hasty and they were so focused on that ‘new’ thing that broke their routine, I achieved what I wanted: chaos and misunderstanding in their plans. As soon as the road was clear, the guy from 76 led the way while I covered him. We got to the house and he planted the mag. We returned safely to the ‘jumping point’ to rendezvous with the other two members of our team. What happened afterward was awesome enough and so crazy that no one would even believe me if I told the story, but the most important part was, we won.

Other exercises and their importance

We did countless simulations of raids, stalking, and infiltrations. But most of this training was pure mil classic. While that type of training has higher levels of control by the responsible officers, I never found it nearly as effective as the RMT simulations we participated in. For example, our navigation training series: In the IDF, we learned to navigate without a map—always. As a whole, all navigation training within SF units are done within three to six hours of learning a map/imagery, and then an entire night is spent executing a plan without using a map—relying only on a compass. This goes for exercises conducted in an urban environment as well (though our METT-TC is based on aerial imagery in this case).

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In the urban navigation phase, we would navigate Jerusalem during the late hours for the entire week in what our school called “the playground.” How it works: Every playground was divided into different zones. Every zone has its own difficulty levels, clear boundaries, terrain aspects, prepared scenarios/settings, and of course, civilians—loads of them. So navigation through Jerusalem while carrying 40-50 percent of your bodyweight in gear was both fun and challenging after midnight, especially when you see all those assholes hanging out with their girls in local pubs while you sweat like a donkey. Losing your way in an Arab village while armed with only a MK77 that never works quite right anyway was also fun. All in all, those RMTs were gigantic, simple, and more effective than anything else.

Another favorite training we did was a simulation of a raid on a real village. While I did feel kinda shitty that we sometimes woke people at night, the training was exceptional. In one situation, we simulated an insertion by Blackhawks 10 kilometers from our destination. Then we walked, observed, and infiltrated until we hit a specific target.

Normally, no one even felt our presence: another reason why, legally, it was easy to bypass authorities or laws, which was sometimes necessary as some of these simulations were a bit…shady, and from time to time could go haywire. I mean, imagine how people in New York would react if a bunch of Green Berets or SEALS went running around, fully equipped, playing Vietnam and pew pew at 4 a.m. in their backyards, or even picking up the beers cans they may have forgotten from yesterday’s BBQ. (That actually happened.)

Jade Helm, a golden opportunity

The bottom line to this article is this: Jade Helm is a golden opportunity for the United States Special Forces to train. Yes, UNITED States. Period. Seeing all those ‘semi’ patriots on my feed lately, complaining about how JH15 is a threat to their freedom—or even better, how Obama plans to use FEMA camps for “mind control” or some such garbage—makes me furious, as people should value this opportunity. It gives the U.S. Special Forces a chance to get boots-on-the-ground experience in a reactive environment, which helps to improve their efficacy on the battlefield and, by extension, saves lives. I can say from my humble experience that JH15 will give the engine of the U.S. SF the lubrication it really needs to perform at its best.

I think that the best way to summarize all this is to quote my team leader from our first RTM: ”This exercise is different, real and sharp. This environment is a mirror, and mirrors never lie.”