IDF appoints first female officer to lead light infantry battalion

Or Livni, who was given citation for continuing to command troops despite being wounded in 2014 incident on Egypt border, to be promoted to rank of lieutenant-colonel

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Maj. Or Livni speaks to the Kan public broadcaster on the Egyptian border, March 29, 2018. (Screenshot: Youtube/Kan)
Maj. Or Livni speaks to the Kan public broadcaster on the Egyptian border, March 29, 2018. (Screenshot: Youtube/Kan)

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday nominated a female officer to head one of the military’s light infantry battalions, for the first time.

Maj. Or Livni, who was wounded during a gun battle with smugglers in 2014, will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the coming months.

She will be the first woman to head the Caracal battalion. The IDF’s four co-ed light infantry battalions have all been commanded by men since their establishment.

In October 2014, Livni, while serving as a company captain in the same battalion, came under fire from both machine guns and anti-tank missiles on the Egyptian border, leaving her and another soldier wounded. Three of the assailants were killed.

Livni, who continued to command her troops after she was injured, was later awarded with a citation from the then-head of the Southern Command Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman.

Caracal was formed in 2000 as a small company of male and female combat troops. Four years later, it was turned into a battalion, with hundreds of troops.

Then-Cpt. Or Livni shakes hands with former head of the IDF’s Southern Command Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman while being given a citation in October 2015. (Israel Defense Forces)

For a decade, it remained the only mixed-gender infantry battalion in the IDF, until the Lions of Jordan Battalion was formed in 2014, followed shortly thereafter by the Bardelas, or Cheetah, battalion in 2015, and the Lions of the Valley Battalion in 2017, bringing the number of female combat soldiers from a few hundred in 2012 to several thousand today.

The units primarily defend Israel’s borders with Jordan and Egypt as part of the IDF’s Border Defense Corps.

In recent years, there has also been a growing trend of women serving in combat units and in other roles previously held by men, with the IDF opening up more combat positions to women last month.

Also last month, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi nominated the military’s first female combat brigade commander, Col. Reut Rettig-Weiss.

Last year, Kohavi announced plans to increase the number of female senior officers in the IDF by 50 percent within the next five years.

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