First Givati 'Namer' APC brigade exercise

Givati ends 17 weeks of intensive training; between engineering tools, combat helicopters, and 'Meanies' a completely new force emerged.

Mordechai Sones,

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צילום: דובר צה"ל

The rules of the game were changed in the most recent Givati Brigade exercise held last week. Lior Noystein of the IDF site reports that despite integration with other brigades, training the impressive and precise battalion combat team, and even airborne evacuations by the air force, this time all eyes were directed at the Shaked Battalion.

Along with the familiar "Meanies" (Achzariot) armored vehicles used by the other battalions, one special instrument that the brigade had recently adopted particularly stood out - the Namer (rhymes with Bel-Air) - "Tiger", the Merkava armored personnel carrier.

Only about a year ago, in the framework of broad staff work, IDF Ground Forces decided Givati ​​would begin the process of converting to the Namer and would become the second regular brigade in the IDF besides Golani possessing these weapons. Last month Shaked Brigade completed its conversion, and officially became the first Namer regiment in the brigade.

"Until now, the entire brigade has moved only on Meanies, which are similar to the Namer, but are completely different in their operational abilities," says the Division 162's Technology and Maintenance Officer Lt. Col. Yossi Mor. "Besides adding significant firepower to the ground forces, the Namer is equipped with a 'windbreaker' system, which means it can protect itself in a passive and active manner. The end product is a brigade with a quality training capability that is much faster and more powerful, that knows how to maneuver and fight long distances, and bottom line - can destroy the enemy in the most effective way."

Despite the dozens of training exercises Shaked underwent in the last year as part of learning the APC, the most important trial of all that attested to their readiness for war took place last week as part of the Shaked Brigade exercise, while dealing with what the senior echelon of the brigade called "one of the most challenging tactical exercises ever."

And no doubt it was. On the steep slopes and cliffs of the Jordan Valley, which in those days resembled the Upper Galilee, while on foot and in their Namers riding in the muddy soil with the freezing wind blowing down their necks, the fighters stood vigilantly with their goal of locating the enemy, forming an accurate situation picture and destroying him.

"It's all a matter of timing," says Captain Motti Greiner, a company commander in the Shaked Battalion, recalling one of the most significant moments in the entire exercise - the live-fire practice in which he, in coordination with other company commanders of the armored and engineering divisions, had to neutralize a Hezbollah ambush controlling a junction that prevented maneuvering forces deeper into the theater.

"It required using fire and quick and precise action," continues Captain Greiner. "We had to maneuver along very narrow and mountainous terrain with the Namers," said Captain Greiner, "and we tried to be as quiet as possible. The armored company meanwhile seized areas around the spot. As soon as we were ready, my platoon came in with two tanks and seven Namers with enemy fire directed straight at us, until eventually we conquered all the targets."

In such an exercise the limits are stretched to the very end and the scenarios - which included a local raid on areas in the Lebanese border region, long advance on the footpaths, confrontation with enemy forces, seizing and guiding fires - were all conceived to surprise both the soldiers and the command echelon.

Using the Namer, says Captain Greiner, turned Shaked into an experimental center for higher-intensity scenarios, and their handling constituted the final proof that they are capable of imposing 100 percent control over the armored vehicle.

But this is not considered enough in the IDF, and in another year from now the Purple Beret's formation will be slightly different. Shaked Battalion will not stand alone in Namer warfare and will be joined gradually by other battalions. "The Namers are expected to enter Rotem Battalion this year and next year they'll also join a reconnaissance battalion and Tzavar. By 2022, the brigade will complete full conversion," says the divisional Technology Officer. "Apart from imparting operational capabilities, the transition to the use of Namers will strengthen the regiment's response in the brigade and each of the battalions on the flanks."

"It's a privilege to be the first battalion in the brigade to experience and use this weaponry," says Commander Greiner. "It's a powerful tool that can't be compared to the Meanies, and that was felt in the brigade exercise. The similarity to northern topography in the exercise prepared the fighters for what will be expected of them when Division 91 and 210 ascend the line in a few weeks. I feel we've been able to meet our missions and I believe we've learned and demonstrated high-level tactical abilities that we'll now take with us to the Gladiola line," referring to the northern outpost located closest to Hezbollah forces.