Col. Avi Blot takes over as IDF’s top commando
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Col. Avi Blot takes over as IDF’s top commando

David Zini steps down as head of the Oz Brigade, which contains four of the army’s elite units

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Col. Avi Blot makes an address during a ceremony naming him the new head of the army's Commando Brigade on August 17, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
Col. Avi Blot makes an address during a ceremony naming him the new head of the army's Commando Brigade on August 17, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Col. Avi Blot took command of the IDF’s Oz Brigade, also known as the Commando Brigade, on Thursday, replacing Col. David Zini, who held the position since the unit was formed in December 2015.

The brigade brought four of the army’s elite units — Egoz, Rimon, Maglan and Duvdevan — under one roof, with the goal of cutting away inefficiencies and allowing for greater cooperation. It was formed under the Central Command’s 98th Division.

During a ceremony at the army’s Beit Lid base east of Netanya, 98th Division Commander Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin lauded Zini for his work as the unit’s inaugural leader.

“You took out the plow and made the first furrow,” Gordin said.

From left, Col. David Zini, Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin and Col. Avi Blot salute during a ceremony naming Blot the new head of the army's Commando Brigade on August 17, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
From left, Col. David Zini, Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin and Col. Avi Blot salute during a ceremony naming Blot the new head of the army’s Commando Brigade on August 17, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

The division commander said Blot was the “right man” to continue the work of developing the army’s “knockout punch, which would know how to work quickly, flexibly, extremely accurately and forcefully.”

To the soldiers of the Oz Brigade, Gordin added: “Commandos, lift your head and march to the future; lean on the past, but be sure to release yourselves from its hold.”

The outgoing commander, Zini, began his IDF service with a five-year stint in the fabled Sayeret Matkal unit before moving to the Golani Brigade, holding a number of combat positions in the infantry unit, including commander of its Egoz reconnaissance unit.

From the Commando Brigade, Zini is set to receive a promotion to brigadier general and take command of the army’s 340th “Idan” Division.

In his speech, the outgoing Oz Brigade commander looked back on the unit’s accomplishments over the past 20 months and thanked the head of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, who attended the ceremony.

“We looked beyond our professional horizon, we dreamed beyond the horizon of consciousness, we planned projects and conducted exercises beyond geographic horizons. We developed a language, concepts and a capability that didn’t exist a year ago,” he said.

Zini was referring to an exercise held earlier this year in Cyprus. In it, some 500 soldiers from the Commando Brigade trained alongside Cypriot troops, simulating a variety of combat scenarios.

“Avi, I have no doubt that you will march the Commando [Brigade] to new places or, more accurately, fly them to new skies,” he said.

Blot, who performed most of his service in the Paratroopers Brigade, including as deputy commander of the Maglan reconnaissance unit, praised his predecessor as an “honest man and a courageous commander.”

For the past two years, Blot has served as both the head of the army’s battalion commanders’ course and as the head of the 551st Brigade, a reserve paratroopers unit.

By combining some of the army’s most specialized units, which were formerly scattered throughout the IDF, the military intends to do away with redundancies and ultimately strengthen the individual units.

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