IDF's Search and Rescue brigade drills for multi-front war

Thousands of troops took part in drill which took place from the Golan Heights to the Negev

The IDF Search and Rescue Unit takes part in a drill, December 2019. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The IDF Search and Rescue Unit takes part in a drill, December 2019.
Israel’s Search and Rescue Brigade has completed a large-scale drill from the Golan Heights all the way to the Negev Desert simulating significant infrastructure damage sustained from a multi-front war.
The drill saw more than a thousand soldiers and reservists working on several fronts affected by simultaneous missile strikes causing widespread infrastructure damage over the course of several days, the commander of the IDF’s Search and Rescue Brigade, Col. Yossi Pinto, told The Jerusalem Post.
With the thousands of troops taking part, it was the brigade’s largest drill of the year that saw many capabilities and techniques trained over the course of the week. As the drill took place across the entire country, troops and equipment were also flown from one front to the other.
“The biggest challenge was the control of the troops over a number of incidents over a period of time,” Pinto said, explaining that “if you put enough troops in one spot at the same time, it’s much easier to control than when you have troops spread all over the country dealing with several incidents. That’s much more challenging.”
While the command was originally meant to deal with rocket strikes in civilian areas, it has expanded to include fighting in times of war, and rescuing IDF soldiers inside enemy territory in the event of a structural collapse.
The troops of the search and rescue brigade not only save lives during man-made or natural disasters, they are fighters serving in the West Bank for 10 months out of the year, as well as guarding Israel’s borders with Egypt and Jordan.
“This is a mixed brigade,” Pinto told the Post. “And as long as we need to rescue someone, even if it means going behind enemy lines – they are not going to fight or occupy but for their specific abilities.”
The IDF has significantly stepped up the scope and frequency of its combat training to improve its readiness, returning to 17 weeks of consecutive training, an increase from the 13 weeks soldiers trained for the past 15 years.
Israel’s defense establishment has warned that any outbreak of conflict on the northern border will not be confined to just one front but will see terrorist groups from the Gaza Strip joining the fighting.
“We want to be as quick as possible to save lives, and in the last few months, we have been using new capabilities that we got, a lot of new techniques, and doing a lot of joint work with other agencies,” Pinto said, explaining that even if a missile could completely destroy a building, if the people inside act properly and remain in the bomb shelter, then there may not be any injuries or loss of life.
To save as many lives as possible, Pinto credits the offensive capabilities of the IDF in addition to the military’s multi-layered aerial defenses and citizens listening to orders given by the Home Front Command.
“If we look at the last rounds of violence, the citizens acted properly and listened to the orders by given the Home Front Command,” he said, adding that doing so allows the military to continue with offensive capabilities against terrorist operatives launching rocket strikes.
According to data recently released by the Knesset’s Research and Information Center, 42% of residents in southern Israel do not have a shelter or protected space in their home, and one out of every seven lack access to a safe room or public shelter nearby. In the Arab sector, one out of every four residents does not have access to a safe room or public bomb shelter.
In the North, 35% of residents said that they don’t have access to bomb shelter near their homes, and 36% do not have one at home.
“The threat from the North is much more significant than those in the South, and the shelter infrastructure is a real problem, especially if people don’t listen to the order given by the Home Front Command, which can happen,” Pinto said.
But, he stressed, “We have a great brigade that lives the readiness. We practice all we can in order to act as fast as possible. After this large-scale drill, the search and rescue brigade is ready for war with Hezbollah and Gaza, simultaneously.”