An IDF soldier from the Golani Brigade trains in northern Israel.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
When Noga Faerman was drafted into the Israeli army almost two years ago, she had no idea what her job would be. The fifth of six children, she grew up on a kibbutz along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.
After graduating high school, she spent a year doing volunteer work and then was drafted into the Eytanim battalion where she became an electrical technician dealing with operational communications.
“I knew absolutely nothing about this field and I had to learn everything from zero,” Faerman told The Media Line. “We are responsible for all of the communications in the army including the navy, the air force and intelligence.”
She was stationed in southern Israel, not far from home, after doing one month of basic training and a four month course. She also had to get a security clearance.
Now just four months from finishing her two-year compulsory service, (men serve for three years), she says she has learned skills that will benefit her whatever she decides to do with her future.
“I learned a lot about how computers and technology work and these are things that are used in civilian life as well,” she said. “I also learned how to work in a team of people and about logistics and connections within the system.”
The Eytanim battalion has “hundreds” of soldiers, according to Lt. Col Kobi Bansho, the leader of the battalion. Most of his soldiers do two years of technical studies, paid for by the army, before joining his battalion. They then have to do an extra year of compulsory service.
“The enemy is faster than ever before,” he told The Media Line in an exclusive interview. “If 20 years ago we were talking about battalions of tanks and artillery, now we are talking about two guys from Hamas or Islamic Jihad who shoot and run away. The data has to go much faster than before.”
He said his job is to keep communications running, and “to give the units of the army the option to use communication for combat use.”
When pressed for details, Bansho demurred. He did not want to describe how his battalion would respond to an infiltration from the northern border, saying only, “I can assure you that we would do everything so that the defense of the settlement succeeds and the northern border remains safe.”
The Eytanim battalion is unique in that it is composed equally of men and women. He said the security clearance is needed because there are types of communications that the army uses that have not yet entered into civilian use. He repeated that he “preferred not to give details,” saying only that army communications use an extensive network of fiber-optic cables and that they “make improvements” to systems already in civilian use.
His biggest challenge, he said, is convincing his recruits to stay in the army after their compulsory service ends.
“We can’t compete with the civilian communications companies in terms of salary,” he said.
An Israeli army paratrooper officer pauses during his morning prayers to give orders on his field radio during a live-fire training exercise.