‘An officer and a gentleman:’ IDF commander who died during training is buried

Col. Sharon Asman, 42, who entered top role in Nahal Brigade just last week, survived by wife and two daughters; army investigating his death

Col. Sharon Asman, 42, is laid to rest in Tel Aviv on July 4, 2021 (IDF spokesperson's office)
Col. Sharon Asman, 42, is laid to rest in Tel Aviv on July 4, 2021 (IDF spokesperson's office)

A senior Israel Defense Forces officer who died last week after collapsing during fitness training at a military base in central Israel was buried Sunday, in a funeral attended by the army’s top brass and hundreds of mourners.

Colonel Sharon Asman, 42, the commander of the Nahal infantry brigade, is survived by his wife and two daughters. He had only entered the role of brigade commander three days earlier. His death is being investigated by the military.

“Professional and thorough, cool-headed and brave,” said IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi in his eulogy at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv. “A man of thought and action, an officer and a gentleman… officers like Sharon are the officers we need.”

“Sharon was a warrior and a wonderful military man — the embodiment of the ‘beautiful Israeli,'” said Commander of the IDF’s Northern Command Amir Baram at the burial. “He was a sabra — tough on the outside and sensitive on the inside. He always cared for his subordinate soldiers and officers, his colleagues and his commanders.”

Asman’s widow, who is also named Sharon, thanked him for “wonderful years of love, support and friendship.”

“Thank your for our two amazing daughters. Thank you for the conversations, the wisdom, the insight, the composure. Now everyone knows what we knew all along — how special you were, a rare combination of a man of spirit and a fighter,” she said.

Col. Sharon Asman, with his daughter Emma. May 17, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)

Asman received immediate medical attention after collapsing Thursday, but shortly afterwards was pronounced dead. He was running alongside fellow commanders when he collapsed. They provided him with initial treatment at the direction of the brigade doctor, who was dispatched to the scene.

His exact cause of death was not immediately known, but it appeared to be a form of heart failure.

On Saturday night, the military announced it was launching an additional investigation into Asman’s death, on top of a Military Police probe that is automatically prompted whenever a servicemember dies.

“The committee will be led by a senior medical officer who is an expert in the relevant field and it will investigative the medical aspects relating to the officer’s death,” a statement from the military said.

It also said the committee will examine a “broad range of medical issues” relating to Asman’s death, and that it would begin work Sunday.

In part, the investigation was due to look into the lack of a defibrillator at the gym where he collapsed — despite civilian fitness centers being required by law to have the machines on hand.

Asman had served in the military for some 25 years and fought in Lebanon and Gaza.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi embraces family members of Col. Sharon Asman at the Nahal Brigade commander’s funeral on July 4, 2021 (IDF spokesperson’s office)

Asman was one of the first soldiers to cross into Gaza during the 2014 war Israel fought in the coastal enclave. He was wounded in combat shortly thereafter, but refused to be evacuated, leading his infantry battalion to operational achievements against Hamas fighters in Beit Hanoun, the army said. Asman received a military citation for his efforts in that war.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sent his condolences to Asman’s family last week, saying, “Asman was one of our best. He gave the majority of his life for the protection of Israel’s security.”

President Reuven Rivlin called Asman “a man of action with a big heart who loved his subordinates and all those around him.”

Speaking at a ceremony marking his appointment, Asman said, “I receive the command of this brigade with a sense of commitment to this huge calling. This is a brigade where I fought and unfortunately lost friends, commanders and subordinates.

“We are ready and willing to take on any task. We will be first at the forefront of every challenge, with a commitment to meet the task and win. We will set a high bar and make sure to raise it and remain relevant.”

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