IDF troops training to achieve INSARAG’s international rescue standards

IDF's Homefront Command's Search and Rescue Unit was accepted as part of INSARAG last year

Col.(res.) Golan Vach watches as troops train (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Col.(res.) Golan Vach watches as troops train
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
A year after the IDF’s Homefront Command Search And Rescue unit was accepted as a member of the United Nations' International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), hundreds are now being trained under the strict guidelines set by the elite international alliance.
Over 450 soldiers and officers are being trained at the Homefront Command’s base in central Israel over the course of the next three weeks by the INSARAG certified Israeli team of in order for them to reach the standards set by INSARAG.
Based in Switzerland INSARAG is an international alliance of 80 countries which centralizes rescue units from around the world to coordinate, optimize and utilize rescue operations in disaster-stricken areas and save lives.  Among the member states are the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Belarus, Germany, Turkey and most recently Pakistan which became the first South Asian country to be certified in late October.
The Israeli rescue unit in INSARAG consists of 100 reservists including a few dozen female fighters, as well as combat soldiers from the IDF's Oketz canine unit and firefighters from the fire brigade.
With accreditation, the Home Front Command’s rescue unit joins aid missions under the auspices of the UN to disaster-stricken countries around the world- including to countries who have no formal relations with Israel or even countries considered adversaries.  The team is able to be fully independent overseas for 10 days.
Under INSARAG accreditation, the National Rescue Unit operates according to strict international aid and rescue standards and uses high level operating and extraction techniques with the world’s most advanced equipment.
While Israel decided to join the alliance was made in 2012, the process was only accelerated in 2014 following delays caused by Operation Protective Edge and internal debates by officers within the unit itself of whether or not to join the alliance.
“It was like fire meeting water,” the Commander of Israel's national search and rescue unit, Col.(res.) Golan Vach told The Jerusalem Post. “INSARAG has strict protocols and procedures which is hard for the IDF, especially reservists, who think’s not in their genes.”
Israel has aided countries struck by natural disasters before being accepted into INSARAG, sending teams from the IDF Medical Corps and Home Front Command to provide search and rescue and medical aid in field hospitals in countries such as Mexico, Haiti, the Philippines, Japan, Turkey, and Nepal.
According to Vach, even before being accepted into INSARAG Israel was one of the best was the fastest in the world to respond to any disaster. Being part of INSARAG not only allows troops to see different angles of the situation but allows them to have equipment of the highest standards, Vach said.
“The unit is creative and daring and completes missions which people think are impossible. But like creative people, there are sometimes issues,” he said. “There’s a difference between someone who is good at sports and is in good physical condition versus a professional athlete who has strict procedures and examinations to go through and that’s how it is with us.”
Vach told the Post that “you have to be very strict, like the Germans and Swiss, with their procedure and preparations but when you get to the disaster zone you have to think outside the box and be Israeli.”
And that combination is what saves lives.