idf paratroopers 224.88.
(photo credit: IDF)
Budgetary constraints and a recent spate of accidents have led the IDF Ground Forces Command to consider dropping parachute training.
OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi has appointed former Paratroopers Brigade commander Col. Hagai Mordechai to review the issue and submit recommendations on whether parachuting is a skill that the IDF needs to retain.
In the IDF's 60-year history, hundreds of thousands of soldiers have taken the parachuting course, today held at the air force's Tel Nof Base near Rehovot. The last time soldiers parachuted in combat, however, was during the Suez crisis in 1956 - although during the First Gulf War in 1991, soldiers wearing parachutes boarded planes as Israel considered dropping them into Iraq to locate and destroy former leader Saddam Hussein's Scud missile launchers. The planes never took off.
Mizrahi's decision to review the need for parachuting came after two accidents: one last Independence Day, when a skydiver crashed into a crowd on a Tel Aviv beach, and another on July 13, when Col. Dror Paltin, commander of the Parachuting School in Tel Nof, was seriously injured in a training jump.
In February 2006, St.-Sgt. Yosef Goodman, 20, a soldier with the elite Maglan unit from Efrat and originally from New York, was killed when his parachute became entangled around the leg of his commander. Goodman managed to cut the ropes of the parachute, saving the commander's life, but was too close to the ground for his emergency parachute to open.
IDF sources said the current economic crisis also played a role in the review. In addition to elite units and soldiers in the Paratroopers Brigade, other soldiers are allowed to take the course. However, some of these - such as soldiers in the navy and those who hold desk jobs - will likely never parachute into a battlefield.
"There is no operational need for soldiers who will never use the skill to have it," one source explained. "That is where we could save money."
There were a number of scenarios in which parachuting would be necessary, the source said while mentioning the Gulf War.
"The IDF needs to be prepared for every possible scenario," the officer said, noting that the US Army had parachuted an entire brigade into Afghanistan when the war began there five years ago.