A special IDF unit, complete with old-fashioned hoes and high-tech equipment, can build an improvised airfield overnight.
One recent exercise began after a long ride in the hot and dusty southern part of Israel. Armed with communication equipment and hoes, they set up an improvised camp in several minutes and began to mark runways before nightfall.
“This is exactly what I was looking for – a small unit with vast fields,” says Corporal “Dean,” who hails from a kibbutz and is a non-commissioned officer of weaponry and instruction.
“In training we enter wide areas and prepare the ground for the Hercules planes,” he explains. “We take the jeep there, accelerate, check if the ground is suitable and finally decide if the plane will be able to taxi there. We have a good atmosphere, lots of cooking”, he says while peeling a potato. “I’m happy to be here.”
The unit practiced building a temporary airport in the open fields and is taking advantage of the opportunity to train the “Elephants” squadron in dirt landings.
Towards sunset, the unit starts to lower its profile and each soldier resumes his specific role, including medics and firefighters.
Without special night-vision technology, it is hard to notice the “Hercules” planes arriving one by one in groups of four, galloping on the dirt runways and leaving behind them tremendous clouds of sand.
The practice exercise was over after the final plane left to return to Nevatim Airbase, near Be’er Sheva, taking off into the black sky and leaving the elaborate landing strip to go back to being nothing more than a field of sand.