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Post-Marmara: Navy Learns to ‘Speak Air Force’

Navy learns to ‘speak Air Force’ in wake of near-disaster in joint mission.
By Maayana Miskin, Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 3/27/2013, 11:02 AM

Navy drill (archive)
Navy drill (archive)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Navy soldiers are learning to “speak Air Force” as one of the lessons learned from the Mavi Marmara incident, in which soldiers were nearly killed while boarding a Gaza-bound ship.

The next generation of Navy commanders has come to learn more about the Air Force in a joint course. The course was created “because there was a need to strengthen cooperation and work together more efficiently,” explained Captain Uri, who recently led a course for Navy soldiers.

“In the case of the Marmara, or stopping other flotillas, our cooperation had huge significance,” he said. “There are two different worlds here, and we need to learn to communicate between them.”

Captain Itai of the Air Force agreed. “In a combat situation, we can give the Navy airplanes and helicopters that help protect ships or blow up enemy ships,” he said. “Communication between us is very important, for example, so that the Navy can better direct our planes toward the target.”

During the course, soldiers who are in advanced Navy training learn Air Force concepts and terminology and go through simulations. “We explained the planes and ammunition to them, and told them how to use our control systems,” Captain Itai said. “They also have systems on the ships, but those are different.”

“These are the foundations of cooperation,” he added. “Without this we cannot make progress.”

Captain Uri noted that the soldiers who complete the course, “will not just learn the lingo for themselves, but will pass it on to others.” The graduates will someday command ships, he said.

During the conflict on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010, the terror activists on deck tied the rope from the IDF helicopter on which IDF commandos were descending to the vessel on to the deck, thereby endangering both the aircraft and the soldiers, and limiting the commandos to using the sole backup rope to board the ship and doubling their vulnerability to attack.

As they dropped to the deck one by one, the IDF soldiers, armed with paintball guns and pistols, were set upon by the mob of "activists" who attacked them with metal bars, clubs, chains and knives.

Seven soldiers were wounded, at least one critically and several seriously. Nine of the terror activists were killed in the clash, which prompted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to break off his already troubled diplomatic relations with Israel.

Last week U.S. President Barack Obama personally intervened during his visit to the region to restore those ties, but the prospect of a strong bond appears shaky, with Turkey holding out for a complete lift of Israel's ban on import of items to Gaza that might endanger the national security of the Jewish State.