IDF’s 'Red Unit': All-female unit challenging troops before they go to war

When they aren’t busy drilling with troops who can be from the elite Shayetet 13 to troops from the Golani or Paratrooper brigades, the women of the Red Unit are busy studying Israel’s enemies.

Soldiers from the IDF’s “Red Unit” (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Soldiers from the IDF’s “Red Unit”

Over a year since the IDF’s first all-female, special-forces “Red Unit” was opened, troops are busy challenging forces from all units in the military for war against enemies such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

Formed in April 2020, soldiers from the Red Unit pretend to be the enemy to better prepare soldiers to defend against offensive attacks.

The troops learn at the Tze’elim Ground Forces training base in the Negev, which has unique, large-scale, urban-warfare training facilities complete with mock terrorist tunnels and other enemy infrastructure.

Soldiers from the unit have undergone four months of specialized training, including intensive studies on the enemies who surround Israel, specifically the threat posed by Hezbollah. They also have intelligence briefings and reviews, where they are updated on what is happening on various fronts to constantly refine their combat methods.

“Our job is to challenge the troops and act like the enemy,” said Sgt. R. “It’s important that our troops have the most realistic drills. So we learn about the enemy to know how they fight and to find solutions.”

“We switch uniforms and really get into the drill, where we really feel like we are the enemy,” she said, adding that it is important that they “feel like them and think like them.”

They hold drills in the middle of the night and inside tunnels, Sgt. R. told The Jerusalem Post.

Soldiers from the IDF’s “Red Unit” (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)Soldiers from the IDF’s “Red Unit” (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

According to St.-Sgt. M., because the unit is relatively new, male combat troops had a hard time going up against the women in drills.

“They didn’t always respect us and what we did,” she said of the first drills. But now, “because we are women challenging them, they really respect us and have told us how the work we are doing is important for them.”

During one drill with troops from the Golani 12th and 13th battalions, they came unprepared, M. told the Post.

“I was really disappointed,” she said, adding that she started to question whether her role was meaningful.

So she went to a company commander in the reserves who was taking part in the drill and had taken part in a military operation, “and he said to me that had I done this drill with you a few years ago, then many fighters wouldn’t have died. That’s when I understood how important my role was, and while the drill wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be, I understood how important it was.”

Another drill with the Armored Corps and Golani “was physically and mentally the most challenging drill,” M. said. “It was the best. We spent three days in the field and challenged the troops, and they respected us for it.”

According to R., when they are not busy drilling with soldiers, including from the elite Shayetet 13 and the Golani or Paratrooper brigades, the women of the Red Unit are busy studying Israel’s enemies to better understand how best to plan a future drill based on their fighting strategy.

While there could be three drills in a week or one that lasts several months, other times there could be weeks with no drills at all, she said.

Either way, “it’s hard, both physically and mentally, since you don’t have a lot of time to rest,” she added.

R., who made aliyah from Finland, was one of the first to be recruited into the unit. Although she is set to be discharged in the coming months, she said she was really happy to have served in it.

“When I first heard of the position, I didn’t really know what it was about,” she said. “It just sounded really interesting, and I wanted to try it. Now, I’m really happy that I did. It’s really interesting, but it’s also really important and challenging.”