Artillery Corps in their annual competition.
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
As dawn broke over Israel’s Negev desert on Thursday, thousands of soldiers from all over the country descended on the Shivta training base for the Artillery Corps’ annual competition.
The Artillery Corps’ annual competition
The IDF Artillery Corps provides critical assistance to infantry units, suppressing enemy fire and preparing the ground for the infantry units to enter. That main role of the corps shaped Thursday’s competition, testing soldiers’ speed, accuracy and endurance.
The yearly competition, in its 25th year, began at 5 in the morning with a fitness and firing competition. Following these, the different battalions competed for accuracy with their artillery pieces, firing shells to targets several kilometers away. With drones above the targets and a screen airing the images in real time, cheers went up every time a target was hit.
It was a party-like atmosphere, with female soldiers dancing with fake flowers in their hair and tug-of-war contests pitting units against each other.
For the first time, the logistics platoon of the Artillery Corps also participated, testing how quickly soldiers could gather shells and load them onto waiting trucks, as well as several first-aid scenarios for the medics of the platoon.
The day was all about “encouraging our soldiers to work together,” Lt.-Col. Maxim Levy, deputy commander of the Artillery Training School and in charge of Thursday’s competition, told The Jerusalem Post
“We put a lot of effort into this competition, because we want the different battalions and different units to bond.”
But it wasn’t only soldiers who enjoyed the competitive atmosphere. Several battalion commanders brought their children to the event and a group of Artillery Corps veterans, retired officers and commanders who served during the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars, were invited to the event.
“We invite them because of the respect we have for them, for their service to the country,” Levy said, adding that “they come every year to see the advancements of our soldiers and weapons.”
According to Levy, several new types of munitions are being considered by the IDF “which will be more precise and further reduce any collateral damage.”
Last year the surface-to-surface, GPS-guided Romach rockets become operational. Designed to strike targets at a range of 35 kilometers with an accuracy range of under 10 meters, these rockets make it possible to destroy targets even in the heart of an urban center. They are part of the IDF’s gradually increasing reliance on guided surface-to-surface firepower, such as the highly precise Tammuz (Spike) missile.
One new artillery piece considered by the Artillery Corps, Levy said, would have three crew members instead of seven, with a precise and increased range as well as a significant improvement to the rate of fire.
According to Maj. (res.) Uri Manos, who served as a commander in the 405th Battalion during the Yom Kippur War and who was invited to the competition, the precision fire capabilities and advanced tactical drones used by the Artillery Corps can “replace certain aspects of the air force.”
“Back in the days of the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, we used to need time to fire our shells – now it’s instant,” Manos told the Post
. He added that “my generation of soldiers, who fought in those wars, are truly impressed by the ability of the Artillery Corps, the technology they have is something that we could only dream about.”
According to Manos, competitions like this one not only strengthen the bonds between soldiers, but prepares them for future combat.
“Days like today not only make the soldiers stronger, but they allow them to grow professionally. They learn from their mistakes, from surprises during the competitions. We cannot allow ourselves to be surprised again.”
And while all soldiers participating in the competition were clearly upbeat and enjoying the day, “we want to raise the morale and motivation of our soldiers,” Lt.-Col. Levy told the Post
, stating that after Sunday’s deadly attack in Jerusalem, he approached soldiers to see if any needed assistance. “They looked at me and said, You don’t need to explain anything to us. We know what we’re here for, what our job is.”