'Special' soldiers are facilitating coronavirus testing

A win-win situation: 'Special in Uniform' soldiers facilitate coronavirus testing.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Special in Uniform soldiers at the logistics center
Special in Uniform soldiers at the logistics center
Special in uniform

Israel hovers at the top of the list of countries testing residents for Covid-19, and in the Ministry of Health Emergency Logistics Center, teams of workers are working round-the-clock to prepare and sort the testing kits and dispatch them to hospitals and MDA centers around the country.

In order to accelerate the process of preparing and sorting coronavirus testing kits, and prepare the deliveries in time, Israel’s Ministry of Health recruited Special in Uniform to the task.

Now, soldiers with a variety of physical and mental disabilities are hard at work in the Home Front Command Emergency Logistics Center energetically packing and replenishing ABC testing and emergency kits. The soldiers’ experience preparing emergency and crisis kits made them preferred workers for the job, and they were summoned to the Ministry of Health’s warehouse to facilitate the preparation, packing, and delivery of the kits.

Specifically in this hour of international crisis, the capabilities, skills and talents of these remarkable volunteers rise to the fore as they demonstrate their capacities and exemplary dedication to their people and nation - just like regular soldiers. Lt. Col. Kobi Malka, who commands the Special in Uniform group stationed in the logistics center, goes so far as to say that his soldiers can accomplish the crucial task better and more industriously than others due to their conscientious, assiduous nature and their patience and persistence at a job that requires long hours of meticulous, repetitious work.

Special in Uniform is a collaborative project of the IDF and JNF-USA which has made its mark as the only program in the world to incorporate young men and women with physical and emotional disabilities and autism into its nation’s military. These are youths who, several years ago, would have never had the opportunities that they have today, but thanks to Special in Uniform are now utilizing their strengths and talents to support their nation and country.

A two-year volunteer training program culminates with the youths receiving their soldier’s IDs and being placed in military bases across Israel where they cull from the knowledge and skills that they acquired to perform important jobs on base. Today, for instance, as they participate in the Home Front Command’s emergency project, these young soldiers can forget their disabilities and focus instead on their versatile abilities and talents.

At Special in Uniform, teens with low self-worth mature into independent, confident young men and women who believe in themselves and their abilities. Throughout their years of military service, they acquire important social and life skills that empower them to meld seamlessly into society and, later, the workforce.

Not only has Special in Uniform impacted the lives of these young soldiers and their families, but it has also made waves throughout the IDF and Israeli society on a whole, which perceives military service as a rite of passage into adulthood.

Oren Fried*, a soldier stationed in the Palmachim Airbase, says, “On a personal level, I’ve gained tremendously from observing and interacting with soldiers in Special in Uniform. This is the first time that I’ve had real contact with people with special needs, and it’s completely overturned many preconceived notions and stigmas. Special in Uniform is a fantastic program, knocking down societal barriers, changing the lives of special people, and offering us incredible exposure that will impact our futures as parents and employers.”

There are currently 500 Special in Uniform soldiers with a wide variety of physical and mental disabilities serving in 35 bases around Israel, but the goal is to ramp up participation to an additional 1000 soldiers by 2023 while simultaneously helping alumni integrate into the workforce.

Base commanders proudly describe the wonderful atmosphere and camaraderie permeating Israeli military bases that incorporate Special in Uniform soldiers, and the magnificent social tapestry and strong values of inclusion that the project weaves.

“Regular soldiers who witness the tenacity and sincere efforts of Special in Uniform soldiers, who work selflessly and patiently and continue plugging away at a job until it’s done, are inevitably inspired. These soldiers surmounted major life challenges to get where they are today—to enlist in the IDF and give their all to our country,” says Col. (Res.) Tiran Attia, Director of Special in Uniform.

“Special in Uniform is a win-win situation for all, benefiting the kids, their parents, the IDF, and the State of Israel as a whole!”

Special in Uniform soldiers at the logistics center Special in uniform