Special forces training unsafe, action to be taken - IDF

Committee set up following a number of serious incidents in the Commando Brigade over the past year.

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April 10, 2019 14:37
3 minute read.
IDF Kfir Brigade training exercise

IDF Kfir Brigade training exercise. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

 
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The IDF will be making changes in its training programs for its commando units, after an investigation into several accidents found a number of significant discrepancies.

The findings of the IDF Committee to Examine Normative Conduct in Special and Elite Units, headed by Maj.-Gen Itai Virov, were presented to Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

The probe was ordered by then-IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot last August following a number of incidents in the military’s Commando Brigade. The committee met with current and former commanders of the commando units, and visited the units and workshops in which soldiers, officers and commanders took part and studied theory from various militaries around the world, as well as IDF instructional material.

“The [investigatory] commission found gaps in the norms of these units, which could be seen in some of their exercises and training, and which originated in the way in which team leaders were trained in these units,” the IDF said in a statement.

After reviewing the findings, Kohavi called for a number of changes in the way that these special forces are trained with “a large emphasis on safety principles,” the military said, adding that there is a “need to change the specialized training process for Special Forces team leaders by adding an additional training course for officers [of these units].”

The changes are expected to go into effect this summer when the commando school begins training special forces.

Kohavi also ordered additional study of safety issues within the military and to “examine norms, routine procedures and the organizational culture” in all IDF units.

The committee was set up following several incidents, including one where Staff Sgt. Shachar Strug from the elite Duvdevan Unit was killed in March 2018 when a bullet was discharged by accident by a fellow soldier who had been playing with his gun.


In August, a soldier from the Maglan Unit was severely injured after he was ordered to jump from a moving Hummer during a training exercise into a thatch of thorns without wearing a helmet and fell onto a rock. He is now permanently paralyzed.

According to a report in Ynet news at the time, jumping into a thatch of thorns is a tradition in the Maglan Unit - which is tasked with carrying out operations far behind enemy lines - so that new recruits will "face their fear" of prolonged camouflage in rocky grounds during special ambush missions.

The army determined that the “action was improper, unprofessional, immoral, dangerous and unnecessary,” and the team commander of the injured soldier, Lieutenant Y., was dismissed.

In another incident, another Maglan soldier was moderately wounded during a Krav Maga exercise conducted without proper authorization and performed without protective equipment. The soldier was punched in the stomach during the exercise and while he complained of pain after being hit, was not taken immediately to hospital. Only after complaining of the pain worsening did the unit officer allow for him to be evacuated to hospital.

The findings of the investigation led to the decision to dismiss the soldier’s commander, First Lieutenant G. who it said was, “acting erroneously during the [Krav Maga] training and acted negligently by not sending the soldier for treatment” right after his injury.

Eisenkot brought the four elite units together under one roof when he formed the Oz Brigade in December 2015 under the Central Command’s 98th Division with the goal of being an accessible, independent and integrated force which operates with increased cooperation and greater efficiency.

The Duvdevan (cherry) Unit was established in 1986 and is known for carrying out a range of high risk urban warfare operations like arrests, raids, targeted killing and kidnappings. The IDF’s elite Maglan reconnaissance unit was established in the 1980s and is tasked with carrying out operations far behind enemy lines.  Established in 2010, Rimon is the youngest of the four elite commando units and specializes in operating in desert environments.

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