IDF finds special forces training unsafe, promises action

IDF finds special forces training unsafe, promises action

Army completes investigation into Commando Brigade’s practices, after soldiers wounded in accidents during exercises

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

Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group,  in northern Israel, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group, in northern Israel, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military on Monday said it had found a number of significant issues in the way its special forces are trained, following an investigation into the matter prompted by a series of training accidents last summer. It said it will seek to correct the issues in the coming months

“The [investigatory] commission found gaps in the norms of these units, which could be seen in some of their exercises and training, and which originated in the way in which team leaders were trained in these units,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Then-IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot ordered the probe last August, following a number of incidents in the military’s Commando Brigade.

The IDF’s Commando Brigade was formed in late 2015, bringing together three special forces units — Maglan, Egoz and Duvdevan — under one roof, in a streamlining effort. These special forces have long been accused of employing reckless training methods, foregoing safety protocols and encouraging soldiers to take risks. The secrecy of these units often means that issues within them are not widely reported.

The findings of the investigation were presented to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Sunday by Maj. Gen. Itai Virov, who led the probe.

“This investigation included meeting with current and former commanders of these units, study of theory from various militaries around the world and IDF instructional material, visits to these units and workshops with the units in which soldiers, officers, commanders took part,” the army said.

After reviewing the findings, Kohavi called for a number of changes in the way that these special forces are trained “with a large emphasis on safety principles,” the IDF said.

The military said many of these changes will take effect later this year once its commando school, which will train most special forces units, is up and running in the summer.

“The commission also noted the need to change the specialized training process for special forces team leaders by adding an additional training course for officers [of these units,” the army said.

Kohavi also ordered additional study of safety issues within the military and the “organizational culture” of the IDF in general.

The investigation began after the military dismissed two officers from the elite Maglan commando unit in August, following the two training accidents in the summer.

In one of the instances, a soldier from the Maglan unit was seriously injured during a training exercise, while jumping from a moving vehicle into a thorn bush, according to the army.

The soldier’s commander was removed as a result of the incident. “The division commander determined this action was improper, unprofessional, immoral, dangerous, and unnecessary,” the IDF said at the time.

Illustrative: Soldiers take part in Krav Maga training at the Regavim base on April 19, 2016. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana/File)

In the second incident, a soldier was moderately injured during Krav Maga exercises, but was not immediately given medical treatment. The army said the injury occurred during a demonstration in which protective equipment was not used.

The IDF said the soldier’s commander was removed for “acting erroneously during the [Krav Maga] training and acting negligently by not sending the soldier for treatment.”

The military put in place additional mechanisms for oversight and approval of Krav Maga training in the brigade following the incident.

“The IDF takes risks in the face of the enemy as required to fulfill its operational duties,” the army said at the time. “It is unacceptable and unprofessional to unnecessarily endanger soldiers during training and routine activities.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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