Sinai Says: New IDF pilots pay tribute to sporting backgrounds

"I would spend hours on the court practicing by myself and that was the only way I improved; I did the same in the Pilots’ Course."

December 30, 2015 02:13
3 minute read.

The graduates of the IDF’s 171st Pilots’ Course will be sworn in tomorrow at Hatzerim Airbase, with six of them crediting much of their success to their background in sports. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

 It takes someone special to finish the IDF’s Pilots’ Course.

Confidence, intelligence, assertiveness, self-discipline, endurance and decisiveness are just several of the traits believed to be required in order to become one of the rare few to join the forefront of the Israeli Air Force.

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Six of the graduates of the 171st Pilots’ Course, which will be sworn in on Thursday at Hatzerim Airbase, also have something else in common.

They all have a background in sport, one which they believe played an important role in being accepted to the Pilots’ Course and completing it successfully.

Take G’ from a moshav in the Sharon region. The 22-yearold played water polo for Hapoel Emek Hefer in Israel’s top flight before beginning his army service, reaching a State Cup final and finishing third in league play. He had the option to serve in the IDF as an elite athlete, which would have afforded him far more comfortable conditions and allowed him to continue training regularly. However, he never had any intention of even exploring that possibility.

“It was always clear to me that my army service would come first,” G’ told The Jerusalem Post. “That is something which characterizes water polo players in general in Israel. It is a very combative sport and a lot of the players go on to serve in the IDF’s elite units.

“I felt that I can contribute as a fighter, in my case as a pilot. As a kid I always wanted to be a pilot, and while my aspirations changed later on, that dream always remained in the back of my mind.”

G’ is one of 40 pilots who will receive their flight wings on Thursday after three intense years of tests, committees and flights.

“The values I learned in water polo of teamwork and combativeness are also very important parts of the Pilots’ Course,” said G’, who will serve as a transport pilot. “You can’t succeed without your team as a pilot and in water polo.”

A’, also 22 who hails from a kibbutz in central Israel, echoed the same sentiment.

“In a way, the Pilots’ Course is a journey to yourself,” he explained. “It is an amazing opportunity to deal with your soft spots, fears and difficulties.

“At 17 I decided that I wanted to be a pilot,” added A’, who will serve as a combat navigator. “It felt like the right step for me and I went for it. I was a basketball player and competed in Taekwondo as a teenager. I decided to leave sport as a hobby, but it certainly helped me in life, especially coping with difficulties and understanding the words ‘fighter’ and ‘persistence.’” The 21-year-old A’ from Haifa, who will serve as a combat helicopter pilot, finished third in the athletics 600- meter final as a junior, but ultimately chose not to chase a career as a professional athlete, although sport still remains an important part of his life.

“Sport is something which releases me,” he said. “Any time I’m a little disappointed or don’t have such a good flight, I run in order to relax.”

The 22-year-old B’ from Ramat Gan will also serve as a combat helicopter pilot after competing in windsurfing as a teenager.

“My competitiveness and will to succeed, to be serious and to persevere are things that really helped me in the Pilots’ Course,” claimed B’.

A’ (age 22), who lives in the Rishon Lezion area, was a national junior judo champion. He will serve as a combat pilot and believes that there are several similarities between judo and being a pilot.

“The judo training gave me so much,” he noted. “In both judo and the Pilots’ Course you find yourself alone facing a very big and difficult challenge. In both, you face an opponent in something which is very competitive and combative. One of the things that I learned in judo, which is also very important in the course, is to never take your foot off the gas pedal and always give your very best.”

D’ (age 21), from a moshav in the Jerusalem area, spent three years playing for Hapoel Jerusalem’s junior basketball teams before turning his focus to his IDF service.

“I always wanted to serve my country in a significant way and I fell in love with the Flight Course,” he said. “I learned in basketball how important training and preparation are. I would spend hours on the court practicing by myself and that was the only way I improved. I did the same in the Pilots’ Course, understanding that the only way to learn is via hard work.”

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