Unique program creates counter-terror commandos

Man who spends seven months getting soldiers ready for special ops in West Bank tells ‘Post’ about training regime.

IDF Duvdevan unit 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman’s Office)
IDF Duvdevan unit 370
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman’s Office)
On any given day, members of the IDF’s elite Duvdevan (“Cherry”) unit might be found in the West Bank running through an alley on their way to carrying out an arrest of a terror suspect.
The unit is famous for sometimes disguising its soldiers as Palestinians and surprising its targets.
Duvdevan’s main aim is to thwart terrorist activity through special operations and lightening raids.
Before going into the field, the soldiers spend around seven months undergoing specialized training, under the watchful eye of Capt. Boaz, who is charge of getting the 18-year-olds into the best shape of their lives, and preparing them for face-to-face combat.
“The two most important qualities we instill in our soldiers are determination and pugnacity,” Boaz told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “They strive to reach their goals and not to quit until they reach it.”
Duvdevan conscripts reach Boaz after undergoing seven months of advanced infantry combat training. Once they enter the Duvdevan program, they begin firearms and orienteering training, as well as spending no less than 180 hours practicing Krav Maga self defense.
The Krav Maga lessons involve the use of their firearms in close-quarter combat. “If it jams or can’t fire, it can still be used in self-defense, because the gun is stronger than the body,” Boaz said. “We teach them for five to seven days how to strike with weapons.”
“We teach them how to use their legs and hands as weapons, and tackle targets as quickly as possible, with a minimum number of strikes directed at weak spots,” he added. “They must learn how to deal with a terrorist running at them with a knife or a gun.”
Throughout the training, the soldiers are instilled with what Boaz described as “aggressive capabilities which they can switch on like a button, taking them from a state of calm to 100 percent speed and power to neutralize a terrorist who can harm them or others. If the terrorist runs at them, the soldiers don’t stop. They move forward toward the target. We teach the soldiers not to fear contact.”
Boaz stressed the trained aggression is never to be used against noncombatants.
“But as soon as they are dealing with a danger, the button is pressed,” he added.
To test their new skills, soldiers are placed into high-pressure and noisy simulated situations. Once the combat training is complete, soldiers spend several weeks tracking more than 100 km. across Israel, getting to know its mountains, paths and natural terrains. They practice evacuating wounded soldiers on a stretcher, and running 3 km. in less than 19 minutes.
“They move quickly and carry heavy equipment over distances. This helps them practice a retreat from the target with a wounded soldier.
“It prepares them as a crew, and it means they must all make a physical effort on a personal level. If one soldier isn’t pulling his weight while carrying a stretcher, the rest will feel it,” Boaz said.
A team of doctors and physiotherapists is on hand to treat any soldiers injured in training, and to get them back into the unit as soon as possible.
After passing through the grueling training, “the soldiers go from a stage in which they couldn’t do more than 50 push-ups when they got here, to reaching a state of mind where we can give them any number of push-ups to do, and they say, ‘Fine, no problem.’ The notion that they can’t do it is absent from their mind. They realize their bodies can do everything, within physical limits,” Boaz said.
“We demand this from them. Not to give up. They will have to enter a building, and perhaps get through a crowd of 10 to 15 people before catching and neutralizing a terrorist. At first, the training looks impossible. The young soldier didn’t imagine his body can do this. At the end, he learns there’s nothing he can’t deal with. This is the the education we give them,” he said.