The head of the IDF’s Northern Command dismissed a reservist company commander on Sunday for refusing to wake up his soldiers for an exercise last month.
On the last night of a multi-day exercise in the Yiftah Reserve Brigade, Maj. Meni Eytan was ordered to wake his soldiers for a nighttime drill. He refused, arguing that the soldiers had not slept for the full six hours as required by IDF protocol in order for them to be able to operate a car the following day. The six-hour rule was put in place in order to prevent sleepy soldiers from getting into car accidents, which continue to be a leading cause of death in the military.
“These people had three hours of sleep, after a ‘war week’ (exercise) in which we rode them hard,” Eytan told Channel 10 News on Sunday after the decision was made to dismiss him.
On May 25, Eytan was told that the soldiers would be able to make up whatever sleep they needed after the exercise was over. However, he insisted on the extra sleep time before, not after, the exercise.
With his requests denied, Eytan ignored his orders and allowed his soldiers to sleep. His commanding officers quickly called for his dismissal on the grounds of insubordination, but the move was stayed pending an investigation by Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, head of the Northern Command.
Eytan told Channel 10 that the head of the Yiftah Brigade had lied during the investigation, when he said the soldiers would have been able to make up the extra hours, as “they didn’t have anywhere to sleep on the base.”
In the days following the incident, Eytan became something of a cause celebre on social media. An online petition in support of him was created and within days garnered hundreds of signatures. His current and former soldiers lauded him as a dedicated commander who was looking out for their well-being. A widely shared and “liked” Facebook post by Eytan’s wife described him as a devoted officer and explained that he knew all too well about the dangers of driving, as he’d lost his sister in a car accident.
But on Sunday Strick sided with Eytan’s commanding officers, who called for his dismissal, ending Eytan’s years-long career as a reservist company commander.
“The general noted the many years of service of the company commander,” the army said in a statement, but determined that Eytan’s refusal went against the expectations of a company commander and “harms the nature of the battalion’s belief in the fighting.”
The army added that “lessons will be learned” from the incident for the future.