Divide and respond: The Home Front Command's new approach to dealing with mass rocket attacks

One battalion is always training for dealing with a rocket or missile impact zone.

April 21, 2015 23:13
3 minute read.
rocket attacks

The Home Front Command's new approach to dealing with mass rocket attacks. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

Col. Yoram Laredo, commander of the Home Front Command’s conscripted battalions, sat in his office near Ramle on Tuesday and received telephone updates on the progress of an El Al passenger jet that had a faulty tire. The plane was returning to Ben-Gurion Airport, just a few kilometers away.

Not many IDF commanders need to monitor the progress of civilian flight safety issues, but Laredo does, due to the particular role his forces fulfill. Laredo commands four full battalions whose specialty is based on combining infantry skills with search-and-rescue capabilities for the home front.

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He told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the four battalions had recently upgraded their model of deploying forces, so as to respond more effectively to the threat of massive Hezbollah projectile fire in a potential future war.

His battalions consist of conscripted personnel, 30 percent of whom are women. Based on the understanding that the country’s enemies seek to turn the home front into a second front line, these forces will be the first to arrive at scenes of rocket or missile impacts, where civilians could be trapped in the rubble of buildings.

“We are focused on avoiding the mistake of preparing for the last war,” Laredo stated. “There is a process under way in the IDF and in the Home Front Command, based on imagining how the next conflict will look,” he went on.

“What is the sum total of the [enemy’s] capabilities? We want to meet the future. I only know that this will involve a volume of projectile fire [against Israel] that is unprecedented.”

The result of this process has been the creation of a new model that involves splitting up the battalions into platoons, and giving platoon commanders autonomous abilities to manage their own operation zones in areas that have sustained moderate to light destruction from rocket attacks.

“The scope of projectile fire in a single day will be significant,” he said – an intelligence evaluation that has caused him to make fundamental changes to the way the searchand- rescue battalions will function in a future war. “We built up capabilities down to the level of the platoon, which will have its own command and control and communications.

Platoon commanders will have their own medical officers, an independent ability to fully evaluate threats, to know how many survivors there are. Engineers will be on hand to advise them on the scale of the destruction.”

Additionally each platoon commander will have his or her own Isuzu D-Max truck, which will act as a mobile command center, a minibus and an equipment carrier. The result is a force multiplier, he added, with each battalion being able to divide itself up into companies, and companies to split themselves into roaming platoons.

“This is a change in perception. It enables us to instantly provide responses and be flexible,” said the officer. “It empowers the platoon commander and turns him into a ‘mini battalion commander’ who can transmit an evaluation of the impact area to his superiors.”

Platoon commanders are equipped with their own hardened Panasonic computers to handle command-and-control needs. They also have access to the Orange Lightening radio network, which connects the Home Front Command to police, firefighters and other first responders. This will enable the Home Front Command to map out rocket impact areas in real time and automatically dispatch the nearest available units to the areas that need help.

“The battalion commander will see his units arrive and will receive live text reports on the situation, learning if there are any injuries, or if things look troublesome,” said Laredo.

“Once, an entire battalion headed out to the destruction scene. The time we save here will save lives.”

Laredo launched a test pilot of this new model of operations last summer during hostilities with Hamas in Gaza, even though few Gazan rockets managed to penetrate the Iron Dome air defenses and damage populated areas.

“Still, it was the first time we put the new outlook into practice,” he said.

The battalions are also qualified to deal with unconventional chemical attacks, a threat that has declined since the Assad regime in Syria disbanded its chemical weapons program.

For 10 months out of the year, Laredo said, the battalions deal with daily security missions – three battalions serve in the West Bank and one in the Southern Command, on the border with Egypt. One battalion is always training for dealing with a rocket or missile impact zone.

“The Home Front Command understands that resilience among the public is the important component in a difficult war,” he said.

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