Always on call
Dan Nemet, who heads the medical unit of the IDF’s national emergency team, talks about life on the job.
DAN NEMET Photo: Courtesy IDF Spokesman’s Office
After years of trying to convince his wife to attend a soccer match, a few years
ago Major (res.) Prof. Dan Nemet finally succeeded in taking his wife to a game
at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan, only to have his emergency response beeper
go off right before kickoff.
“That was one time when she wasn’t that
upset; I told her it was her lucky day,” Nemet said on Monday.
medical officer of the IDF’s National Emergency Response unit, the 47-year-old
Kfar Saba father of three always carries his beeper and has his emergency kit on
“You never know when they’ll call you. Usually most soldiers and
reservists know when they have an exercise coming up and when they have
training, but we are on call 365 days of the year,” Nemet said. Members of the
unit have to be ready to fly to any corner of the world within a few hours,
without knowing where exactly they’re going or when they’ll be back.
demands a lot from you but also from your children, your family, your friends,
your work. It requires a very supportive environment and if I didn’t have that I
probably wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Nemet was given a commendation by
the IDF General Staff this year for improvements he made to the army’s emergency
response capabilities, including training the Home Front Command’s medical unit,
and helping train IDF units to deal with post-traumatic stress
Nemet drew a blank when asked how many rescue missions he’s
been on since he joined the unit in 1995, or how many countries he has been
deployed to with the unit. In addition to responding to crises in Israel, he was
among the first responders at the Taba Hilton bombing in Sinai in 2004, and was
part of two earthquake rescue missions to Turkey in 1999.
has never seen a real natural disaster in their life doesn’t understand the
power of it.
We help to train the rest of the home front to deal with
disasters, and when I do, I try to explain to them what it’s like to fly for
hours and everything beneath you is destroyed,” he said.
The unit is
often one, if not the first, of the response teams on the ground when natural
disasters strike across the world. With the national flag on their uniforms,
Nemet said the unit helps Israel’s image.
“I am convinced that we do
presents [a good face for Israel]. When someone calls for help and you come, it
does excellent PR for the State of Israel,” he said.
The deputy head of
the children’s medicine department at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Nemet
has also found the time over the years to become the Israeli national Multisport
champion in the shot put, javelin toss and hammer throw.
“I have to always be busy; it’s very hard for me to sit still and not do
anything. I think this is just the way I am. Sometimes it’s nice to sit at home
and read a book, but then it gets old for me.”
Nemet said that treating
sick children is, in a way, easier than dealing with the horrors of search and
rescue work, because there is an air of hope to the work.
children is difficult, but I have to say that children’s medicine is an
optimistic field, because most of the children if you treat them well, they’ll
be fine... If you see a child is sick and you do everything for him, the second
he feels better you see it, you see the smile, you see them jumping and running
and you realize they’re OK. It’s very difficult work, but it’s very
Lying on the Syrian-African Rift Valley fault line, Israel
lives under the specter of an earthquake that could happen anytime. With older
buildings not built to withstand a strong earthquake, most talk of such a
disaster includes scenarios of thousands of deaths and colossal
damage. Nimet knows such damage well.
“Earthquakes like they had
in Turkey or in Haiti [in 2010] are on a totally different scale. There’s no
country on earth that can tell you they’d be ready for something like this.
Every time I finish [an earthquake rescue mission] I pray that we never have to
deal with something like this.”
The rescue team is an all-volunteer unit
of 400 soldiers split into three companies, each of which can break into three
platoons made up of medics, engineers, nurses and an officer.
As a small
volunteer unit, many of the soldiers invite their friends to enlist, helping
forge an especially close-knit team, he said.
Each of these soldiers
knows that he or she can get the call-up at a moment’s notice, a burden he said
they readily carry.
“We’ve had cases where there were call-ups while
members of the unit were abroad and they flew from their vacations directly to
the scene,” Nimet said, adding that if it were a soldier’s wedding night they
would not call him, but “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d get angry about that.”