For the first time since the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, the IDF will be increasing the length of training for combat soldiers from 13 to 17 consecutive weeks.
“We need to look ahead and be ready,” said Brig.- Gen. Oded Basiok, the commander of the 162nd Division whose Givati and Nahal Brigade troops have been the first to start training under the new program implemented last week.
According to Basiok, the increase of time will allow troops to “strengthen the basic abilities of the fighters and commanders on an individual level.”
“Wherever the war will catch us, we will be unequivocally ready,” he said.
As part of the program, soldiers will practice at night as well as train to fight in urban areas with highrise buildings as well as underground in tunnels and against threats such as antitank missiles.
According to Basiok, the IDF is currently in the process of replacing all armored vehicles in both the Nahal and Givati Brigades, which will also increase the capabilities of the troops.
“The Givati Brigade will move to the Namer armored personnel carrier and the Nahal Brigade will move to the new wheeled armored personnel carrier, the Eitan, which is no less than a revolution in my eyes,” he said.
In preparation for the new program, the IDF will be investing hundreds of millions of shekels into upgrading training facilities on the Golan Heights, in the Jordan Valley and in southern Israel, and adapting them to the challenges facing troops on various fronts.
“We are thinking about both the northern sector as well as the southern sector,” Basiok said, adding that while “the close training will focus on the southern sector, in the Gaza Strip, the training will be holistic in order to maintain the readiness of troops in all sectors.”
While the defense establishment does not foresee any conflict breaking out in the near future, tensions have risen on both the northern and southern fronts.
In the north, the growing threat posed by Iranian entrenchment in Syria and the building of missile factories in Lebanon for its proxy terrorist group, Hezbollah, has led to significant concerns for Israel.
Over the past year, several large scale drills were carried out by the IDF in the north of the country, including last month when it held a series of brigade exercises that saw troops from armored, engineering, infantry and artillery units taking part.
“This past week we practiced significant scenarios with challenging obstacles in which we improved our operational, physical and mental readiness,” said Col. Gal Shohami, the commander of the 188th Brigade.
Over the summer, tens of thousands of conscripts and reservists from all branches of the army were called up to take part in the largest IDF drill in close to 20 years, simulating a war with Hezbollah.
The two-week long drill focused on countering the increased capabilities of Hezbollah and also included simulations of evacuating communities that sit on the border with Lebanon.
In addition to having rebuilt their arsenal to have hundreds of thousands of missiles aimed at Israel, Hezbollah has changed from a terrorist group fighting guerrilla style targets to an army with battalions, brigades and over 40,000 fighters who have gained immeasurable battlefield experience.
According to Basiok, since “there have been significant changes in terms of our enemy,” the training of IDF soldiers must be tailored to face that threat.
Three years after the last conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Sunni terrorist group has once again grown close to Tehran, which froze its financial support to Hamas in the Gaza Strip after the group refused to support the Assad regime in 2012.
While the IDF does not believe that Hamas currently seeks another conflict, the situation is fragile, especially given the worsening conditions in the Strip.
Violent demonstrations along the border fence occur weekly and, according to the army, have been getting more violent in recent weeks, with Gazan protesters bringing firearms and grenades to use against soldiers on the other side of the fence.
In March, when 2,000 reservists were called up to simulate a war in the Gaza Strip, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said that “We have put preparedness at the top of the IDF’s list of priorities.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>