The IDF continues to make preparations for a war that will likely include missile attacks on the civilian home front: a fourth Search and Rescue Battalion has been established by the Home Front Command.
The IDF's Bamahane magazine reported that the battalion is to absorb manpower from both the headquarters and two operational batteries of the "Ram" Battalion, which operates anti-aircraft Stinger missiles. The decision apparently reflects a greater concern regarding the threat of enemy missiles than the threat posed by enemy jet fighters.
"There was a decision to build four battalions, but we never dreamed it would happen so quickly," said head of Planning and Organization of the Home Front Command, Lt. Col. Elena Samson.
Enlarging the search and rescue forces will create a large force available to respond to emergency situations, including non-conventional attacks, large-scale rescue events, and other extreme situations, said Bamahane. "There is an understanding that the home front is becoming a second battlefield, so it must get stronger," explained the head of Manpower in the Home Front Command, Lt. Col. Sharon Horev.
Bamahane's Niva Goldberg and Yarden Tzur reported that the 'Ram' Battalion' battery that was not transferred to the Home Front Command will remain operational and will be re-assigned to the air defense wing of the air force. The wing operates the Iron Dome and Arrow missile defense systems, and will absorb the Magic Wand system in the future.
The Stinger batteries will join the Home Front Command in August, and will begin training in search and rescue skills required for Home Front duties in early 2013.
"Ram" battalion commander, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said: "This summer we will change the color of our berets but continue the same operational mission. What will change is that during emergencies our mission will switch to one of saving lives."