One commander tied his soldier to a tree. Another ordered his subordinate to roll in the sand even though the soldier was feeling dizzy. These and other negative anecdotes about commander-soldier relations were revealed in the annual IDF Ombudsman complaints report, which IDF Ombudsman Brig. Gen (res.) Yitzhak Brik presented to President Shimon Peres on Monday.
Among conscripts and in the regular army, complaints were down, said Brik, but they were slightly up among reservists.
Peres was curious as to whether the decrease could be attributed to improvements in human relations within the IDF or whether the soldiers were just getting fed up and didn't bother to complain. Brik was of the opinion that the IDF had improved.
"There's still a lot to be done," he said, "but we're much better than we were."
Of the complaints received, he said, 59 percent were found to be justified. In total, the ombudsman received 6,501 complaints in 2008, compared to 6,404 the year before. Most dealt with commander-subordinate relations.
In one case, a commander violently overturned his subordinate's bed while he was sleeping and threw his belongings on the ground. In another case, a commander tied his soldier to a tree with his vest. Another soldier was forced to crawl under a tank while his commander opened an oil pipe and sprayed him. A combat trainer kicked one soldier in the stomach until he fell and in another case hit a soldier with a wood stick.
Soldiers also filed complaints for not receiving medical care. In one case, a soldier complained of pains in his stomach but was misdiagnosed and told to remain on base. The next day, he was rushed to a hospital for an emergency appendectomy.
Soldiers also complained about being humiliated by their officers. One Ethiopian soldier was called a "nigger" by his company commander, who was then fined NIS 350. Brik intervened in the case and the officer was reprimanded.
Brik said that this type of behavior was often found in young officers who had not been taught how to address the people under their command. It was taken for granted that if someone was considered "officer quality," he or she an innate sense of leadership, would know how to speak to people and act as a parental figure, he said.
Unfortunately, he said, some officers simply don't have this gift and have to be taught.
One thing soldiers were happy about was the frequency with which they could communicate with home, he said. Being able to make contact was good for their morale, though some called home a little too often, he added.
In response to the report, the IDF Spokesman's Office issued a statement saying the army would review the material and take the neccessary measures to correct the deficiencies pointed out in the report.