Collecting intelligence – and in ways no female soldier has done before

The Eitam unit enhances capabilities with its new ‘Granit’ advanced tactical reconnaissance vehicle.

FEMALE COMBAT intelligence-gathering soldiers use the ‘Granit’ tactical reconnaissance vehicle. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
FEMALE COMBAT intelligence-gathering soldiers use the ‘Granit’ tactical reconnaissance vehicle.
On a hill overlooking the small community of Yahel in the Arava, a unit of female combat intelligence soldiers are using their newest advanced tactical reconnaissance vehicle to see into the darkness and thwart possible terrorist attacks.
“There is no one else collecting intelligence in the area except us,” company commander Capt. Guy Ribenfeld of Field Intelligence Battalion 727, known as Eitam, said as The Jerusalem Post joined his soldiers late at night recently near the Israeli-Jordanian border.
Using the “Granit” since August, Ribenfeld’s soldiers are the first female combat intelligence soldiers in the IDF to use the tactical intelligence collection vehicle once used only by male soldiers.
His soldiers, who trained for one week on the system before being deployed to the field with the vehicle, have a unique role, combining their combat capabilities as infantry soldiers with their advanced intelligence-gathering skills.
Built by Israel Aircraft Industries’ Elta Group, the “Granit” has been integrated onto the Ford 550 Ram model, which has full armor protection and a concealed telescopic mast that can be raised at the press of a button when the vehicle stops.
Along with its telescopic mast and radar system, the “Granit” combines several field intelligence-collection systems and strengthens the IDF’s means of intelligence gathering.
“Intelligence collection has become more effective, faster and precise” Ribenfeld said, explaining that the system’s architecture and easy user interface allows for clearer intelligence on a target spotted by radar.
“Without this system, you would have to use a map to figure out where the target is and would lose time trying to figure out what the target is,” he said, adding that the system quickly closes the circle from spotting a target to getting all the relevant intelligence on it.
“It’s automatic and almost instant. I see something and I press a button and get all the information I need on the target.”
The mobility of the system also allows increased flexibility for the operators if they are needed in a different area, such as deeper in the Negev desert where there is no surveillance or IDF presence.
The combat intelligence corps is the youngest of the corps in the land forces of the IDF responsible for intelligence collection in the field and the transfer of that information to other field units such as the co-ed Bardalas battalion.
The Eitam battalion is instrumental in the IDF Southern Command, responsible for the entire Negev and key to keeping up with the security situation in Sinai, especially regarding the ongoing Egyptian military operation against Islamic State terrorists who continue to carry out attacks in the restive peninsula.
According to Ribenfeld, holidays are particularly sensitive times because there is a significant increase in the number of tourists in the area. And, although he doesn’t believe there will be a terrorist attack, troops are “always at the ready.”
In January 2014, Lt.-Col. Oshrat Bachar, a member of Caracal, became the first woman in Israel to command a combat brigade, taking the head of Field Intelligence Battalion 727 stationed on the Israel-Egypt border.
According to IDF figures, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of female recruits asking to be evaluated for combat service, and while the most popular units for female combat soldiers are Home Front Command and Border Police, many also join the artillery corps, the infantry’s co-ed battalions and combat-intelligence units such as Ribenfeld’s.
“Working with female fighters is amazing. Everyday I am getting to know my fighters better and realizing they have great skills. There’s never been a time that they couldn’t complete what I gave them,” Ribenfeld told the Post. “As someone who commanded men before, I can say their level is higher than that of the male fighters.”