IDF as ‘Light unto Nations’ Trains International Commandos
The IDF’s Foreign Training Branch trains international commandos from around the world in urban warfare, and 2010 already is overbooked. Military spokespersons say that the training that exposes foreign soldiers to Israel creates a better understanding of the Jewish State, its culture and security problems.
Foreign militaries come to Israel for training because it is under constant threat and has dealt with both full-fledged wars and smaller battles since its re-establishment in 1948. The IDF says that the most popular training facility is at the western Negev Tze'elim military base, which it describes as the most advanced urban warfare training facility in the world.
“There is no better way to have soldiers bond than to have them eat from shared field rations,” according to the IDF. The international commandos also take IDF-hosted tours of Israel. "Whether we are talking about a visit to the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial or a tour of Sderot, we try to bring them the story of Israel in the shortest amount of time and on the most personal level,” says IDF Maj. Limor Laon. “When they return to their countries, they definitely feel closer to us and understand the complex daily reality of our lives in Israel and the threats against us," she adds.
The overseas "clients" are small groups of soldiers and officers, dressed in the uniforms of their respective homelands, and they train under Foreign Training Branch commander Lt. Col. Tal Lazarus. He explains that the tours of Masada, the Old City of Jerusalem and of the Machane Yehuda marketplace "present them with a full picture of Israeli life and the way it feels from behind the headlines or statistics."
The last cocktail party held by the military attaché of a European country, which for security reasons cannot be published, opened with a slide show of pictures from a cooperative training exercise with soldiers from their country and from the IDF.
Despite the level of friendliness that develops between the Israeli and foreign soldiers, it is understood that regular military protocol remains. The password among Branch personnel is "Warm Training.”
"The fact that one of the foreign delegations who came here last year with eight people for seven days is coming this year with twice as many people and for approximately three weeks should tell us something about the quality of the work of the Branch,” Maj. Limor Laon commented.
An additional pursuit of the Foreign Training Branch is related to training IDF soldiers outside of Israel. Special emphasis is given to the work of the Alpinists, an IDF unit trained in severe winter conditions. A Search and Ski Course takes place annually in a European country, and special paratroopers' courses take place outside of Israel in order to teach soldiers how to react to different topographical conditions.