From iPods to Iron Dome: Israel’s Air Defense Command Part II

The outgoing commander of the IDF’s Air Defense Academy met with the IDF Website and provided some amazing insights into the apparatus that keeps Israel’s skies safe from enemy rockets and works towards healing Israeli society at the same time. In this second part of the three-part series, he talks about what it takes to train the “Facebook Generation” to fight.

Israel’s air defense apparatus has grown and developed at a rapid pace in recent years. In November 2012, its astonishing capabilities were brought to the full attention of the Israeli public and the international community during Operation Pillar of Defense during which terrorists in Gaza fired over a thousand rockets at southern and central Israel. In eight days of conflict, the Air Defense Command’s newest missile defense system – the aptly named Iron Dome –  succeeded in shooting down more than 400 terrorist rockets that threatened to strike populated areas.

Iron Dome Missile Defense System

Archive Photo: Iron Dome intercepts rocket

One of the Air Defense Command’s senior officers, Colonel Yoni Seida-Marom, recently concluded his three-year post in command of the Air Defense Academy. He explained that the current generation of air-defense soldiers – members of Generation Y – bring many excellent qualities and a high-level of personal talent to their duty as defenders of Israel’s skies. Though there are also some challenges.

“It is a challenging generation on a number of levels,” he said. “When I grew up, we were outdoors every day – we dealt with the cold and the heat. Members of this generation arrive at the Academy and for the first time they experience two days in a row in the outdoors, in the sun and heat and cold and sleeping in a tent. This is what life will be in the Academy.”

Arrow Anti-Missile System

Archive: Arrow Anti-Missile System

Col. Seida-Marom explained how this generation’s dependence on the Internet and digital media could be seen as problematic, though it also grants them skills that prior generations may have lacked. “It is a very communicative generation, very connected to screens,” he said. “They arrive at the Academy where they are removed from their screens and in light of that it should theoretically be a huge failure, but the opposite is true.”

The transition from civilian to recruit to soldier can be tough for young men and women joining the IDF. The Air Defense Academy conducts a series of steps to help make the process as smooth as possible. “In the first week we will not do any demanding physical activities with the recruits in the field, we give them time to acclimatize,” Col. Seida-Marom said. “The weeks of field training and firing ranges will take place at a more advanced stage of the training. The acclimatization is physical – to the tent and the lack of air conditioning and also to the situation in which they will pass long days without talking to their parents or checking their Facebook. I can say that three or four hours after the moment they begin, we can see how the soldiers succeed at adapting.”

State-of-the-art simulators are used to train the IDF's newest air defense soldiersState-of-the-art simulators are used to train the IDF's newest air defense soldiers

Col. Seida-Marom explained that the current generation’s affinity for technology assists in certain aspects of their training.

The outgoing Academy Commander notes that the soldiers of the current generation are eager to learn and take keenly to the sense of belonging and group which is perhaps a little rarer in today’s world. The academy takes steps towards identifying social leadership, and then reconfigures the group to get the best out of its soldiers.

“From this moment they reach professional achievements which in my era we would have needed months to achieve,” Col. Seida-Marom said.  “They have amazing capabilities. In my eyes, this generation produces superior fighters at the end of the day compared to my generation. They want to understand, and demand explanations. They are also able to connect to Zionism and love of the homeland, and to understand where it comes from. They have faith in the justice of their path.”

 


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