The Israeli Defense Forces have been looking at the way their military trains their various Special Forces units and after several incidents will revamp their training.
The Israelis have several different units with very different missions but they’ve had a spate of accidents lately in their training of their candidates and they created an investigative team to look into how their training cadres were testing their candidates while looking at their current missions.
This probe was ordered last summer by the then IDF Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot after several different incidents occurred during training events for soldiers trying to gain entrance into their Commando Brigade.
Eisenkot created a committee to interview former and current commanders of the various commando units, visited the individual units and interviewed the soldiers and officers. They looked at how the IDF Commando Brigade operates as well as other different Special Operations military units around the world and balanced that against the instructional material the Commando Brigade utilizes.
The committee, which was named the IDF Committee to Examine Normative Conduct in Special and Elite Units, was led by Maj.-Gen Itai Virov, and then presented their findings to the new Chief of Staff LTG Aviv Kochavi.
In a statement released by the IDF, the committee said, “The commission found gaps in the norms of these units, which could be seen in some of their exercises and training, and which originated in the way in which team leaders were trained in these units.”
Kochavi, who began his term as the new Chief of Staff in late January, after reviewing the findings of this investigation, called for several changes in the way that the IDF Special Forces are trained. These changes will go into effect this summer once the Commando Schools begin their training of new candidates.
These changes begin with “a large emphasis on safety principles,” the military released in a statement, adding that there is a “need to change the specialized training process for Special Forces team leaders by adding an additional training course for officers.”
Kochavi, in a move that has also taken place with United States Special Operations units, called for safety issues to be investigated, citing that there is a need to “examine norms, routine procedures and the organizational culture” in all IDF units.
The Jerusalem Post published several of the incidents that the investigation looked at and listed several. The first was where an SSG Shachar Strug from the elite Duvdevan Unit was killed in March 2018 when a fellow training candidate, playing with his weapon had an accidental discharge and the round killed Strug.
Duvdevan (Hebrew for cherry) is a mista’arvim (counter-terrorism) unit. They are noted for their work undercover in urban areas, where they often wear Arab civilian clothes as a disguise. They are also trained in human and mechanical counter-surveillance.
Duvdevan units can operate independently in more than one place at a time. The unit performs many high-risk and complicated operations, including targeted assassinations, kidnappings, and a range of other undercover operations in Arab areas.
The Israeli television series “Fauda” was based on a mista’arvim, Duvdevan unit.
Last summer, a soldier from the Maglan Unit was permanently paralyzed after he was ordered to jump from a moving Hummer during a training exercise into a thatch of thorns without wearing a helmet and hit his head on a rock as he hit the ground.
This jumping into thorn bushes is a tradition in the Maglan Unit, in order for candidates to get over their fear of the unknown and of dangerous situations. Maglan is an Israeli sayeret (reconnaissance) unit, which specializes in operating behind enemy lines and deep inside enemy territory using advanced technologies and weaponry. A Maglan is a bird (Ibis) who according to the IDF ‘that knows how to adapt in every situation.”
Their training is considered some of the toughest in the IDF, even amongst the other SF units. Candidates undergo 18 months of training and it includes a 100km (62.5-mile) beret march to continue the next phase of their training.
The army, however, determined that the “action was improper, unprofessional, immoral, dangerous and unnecessary,” and the team commander of the injured soldier, Lieutenant Y., was dismissed from the service.
Another Maglan soldier was injured and required hospitalization during a Krav Maga exercise conducted without proper authorization and performed without protective equipment. The injured soldier was punched in the stomach during the exercise and while he complained of pain after being hit, was not taken immediately treated. Only after the soldiers’ condition worsened did the unit officer allow for him to be evacuated to the hospital.
This unit officer was also dismissed for conducting unauthorized training without the proper equipment and for withholding the medical attention of this soldier unnecessarily.
Eisenkot established the Oz Brigade (Hebrew for courage) in December 2015 under the Central Command’s 98th Division with the goal of being an accessible, independent and integrated force which operates directly under the Chief of Staff’s orders. The forming of the unit had much to do with the lessons learned during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge fighting in Gaza.
The units in the Oz Brigade consist of Maglan, Duvdevan, Ergoz (a guerrilla warfare unit) and a new formation Rimon which specializes in working in desert environments and operates desert high-mobility vehicles known as “wild cats”.
The thinking behind this move was to parallel the usage and capabilities of the United States’ 75th Ranger Regiment. However, other Israeli special operations units, Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13, Shaldag, Oketz and Yahalom will continue to operate independently.
Photo of SF training exercise debrief: IDF