hawk battery 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The IAF's Air Defense Division is known for its high proportion of female soldiers, but last week one of its units made history with the appointment of a fourth female battery commander, giving it the title of the "most female battalion in the IDF."
The battalion is made up of four Patriot and Hawk missile batteries. Until last week, three of them were commanded by women. Last Thursday, command over the fourth battery was handed over to a female officer as well.
"This is a good feeling," said Capt. Revital Uzon, commander of a Hawk missile battery in the battalion. "In the beginning we laughed about it, but ultimately there is no difference if the battery commanders are male or female."
Israel first received the Hawk surface-to-air missile from the United States in 1965. The missile was used extensively during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The battalion also operates Patriot Missiles and played a key role during Juniper Cobra, the joint missile defense exercise held last month with the United States.
Uzon, 23, enlisted into the Air Defense Division at 18 and volunteered for three years - as opposed to the mandatory two years - as required for women who wish to serve in combat positions. She later went to Officer Training School and spent a year as an instructor at the Air Defense Division Training Base south of Beersheba.
"I decided to sign on for more service since I felt that this was the best way to serve my country and influence what happens here," she said. "It is a lot of responsibility, but we are ready and train for what we do every day."
Col. Yariv Shnapp, commander of the training school, said that the IAF gained from the appointment of additional female commanders. He predicted that within five years, the first female officer would command an air defense battalion.
"The IAF believes that male and female soldiers can do everything and what really matters is motivation and the willingness to contribute," Shnapp said.
While women made up only a third of new recruits in the Air Defense Division, they currently fill 50 percent of the command posts in the battalions, he said.