Hundreds of soldiers from the IDF’s rigorous combat officers training course took part in a three-day drill alongside troops from the prestigious naval officers and pilot officers courses.
Israel is highly dependent on the sea and as the navy increases in importance, especially in regards to protecting the country’s coastline from waterborne threats as well as providing protection to the country’s gas fields and shipping lanes, the focus on joint drills between the navy, air force and ground forces has increased.
The Three-Armed Corps Cooperation exercise ended Thursday with troops aboard the Navy’s Sa’ar 5 INS Lahav as well as the Sa’ar 4.5 INS Tarshish, along with a Dvora patrol boat and a Dolphin-class submarine.
The Israeli navy carries out daily operations off the coasts of Gaza, Lebanon and beyond, and due to the growing threats posed by the arsenal of Grad rockets and other longer-range more accurate projectiles in the hands of terrorist groups like Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, the navy has strengthened the air-defenses on its ship, placing the naval Iron Dome battery on the INS Lahav.
The Jerusalem Post joined some 200 soldiers from the combat officers training course aboard the INS Lahav off the coast of Haifa on Thursday and watched as the submarine made an emergency surfacing some 600 meters away from the ship – to the cheers of all aboard.
Shortly afterwards, the INS Tarshish, which is fitted with RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Barak surface-to-air missiles, as well as heavy machine-guns, fired several missiles towards a target about a kilometer from the ship. The Dvora patrol boat then sped toward another target, firing a dozen rounds from its heavy machine gun.
“We took the officers on board our ship so that they can learn of our abilities onboard the navy’s largest ship,” Maj. Roie Gardosh told the Post
while aboard the INS Lahav.
“This whole drill is to build a shared language that will help them when the time comes.
“All of these soldiers will be officers in the coming year and we want them to know what the navy can bring to them. We have learned in the last few years that we have the ability to work with other corps and not be independent and alone,” Gardosh said, stressing that the navy is “proactive in all areas that the IDF needs.”
According to Gardosh, while everything in the three-day drill was done in groups, there were several challenges to having some 200 individuals aboard a ship that usually carries a crew of 64, with an additional 10 aircrew at times.
“The officers in the navy were never soldiers,” Gardosh said, explaining that all cadets have gone straight to the naval officers course, similar to those in the pilots course but unlike officers from the combat officers course.
“Everyone is in the army and there is a shared Israeli culture. But even in combat officers course you have differences. The point of these days is not only to minimize the differences but know them so that this will allow them to know how he could help me or how I could help him,” said battalion commander Lt.-Col. Gidi Kfirel.
According to Kfirel, the IDF has placed an emphasis on joint corps drills such as the one witnessed by the Post
“If you put it on a scale from 2006-2018, there has been an increase in the ground forces working together [with the other corps] and as long as they keep doing so, it will continue to go up,” he said.
LT.-COL. ELI SOHOLYZKY, a commander of the Naval Officers School, praised the exercise as an important and successful way for troops to develop personal relationships with one another, a key aspect to battlefield successes.
“Every year we do a meeting of these officers in order for them to know each other, as the next time they meet it could be a real event or war.
“Here they can brainstorm,” he explained, stressing that the “personal connections are extremely important.”
“One very good thing about this drill is to show the similarities. When we were young officers it wasn’t as shared. We aren’t fighting as one corps or another. We are the IDF and we must be effective in future wars so we are bettering ourselves as officers and our synchronization between corps,” Soholyzky said.
Yuval Carmeli, who is from Even Yehuda, told the Post
that the most important part of the drill was learning about the other people.
“A lot more than before, all the corps work together and you need to have the best kind of professional relationship with the other officers to get the mission done right, using a shared language,” he said.
“This type of drill is the perfect platform to learn that shared language.”
Carmeli, who wanted to join the navy from a young age to follow in his father’s footsteps, told the Post
that naval officers “have to be humble and give as much as we can for our mission and our soldiers and not raise our noses.The navy has the most serious mission because we have to protect our gas fields and other strategic assets.”
ITAY SABAG from Beersheba was never interested in the navy before being enlisted, wanting instead to join the IDF’s elite Airborne Combat, Search and Rescue Unit 669. Echoing Carmeli, Sabag spoke of the importance of working with troops from the other corps.
Nearly two and a half years long, the navy’s officers course is one of the most intensive programs in the IDF where, according to army figures, over 2,000 candidates apply with only 90 passing the initial tests.
All cadets go through rigorous training and in the first stage of the course, they undergo training to learn the basic military skills as well as learn how to operate small sea vessels.
Following their basic training, cadets get divided into four different areas of expertise – submarines, sailing, machinery, or electronics – which will correspond to the posts they receive following graduation.
During their advanced training, cadets also undergo a diving course to become a two-star diver, capable of diving to depths of up to 30 meters.
The next stage in the course lasts about eight months where the cadet undergoes practical and theoretical training in the designated position aboard the ship.
At the end of the course, each graduate receives the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade responsible for commanding naval vessels, as well as a bachelor’s degree in political science from Haifa University. Graduates are committed to 61 months’ additional military service.