IDF shaves four months off men’s mandatory service

Army about-face includes less training time, change in physical requirements for combat troops, more women in combat

Illustrative: Female soldiers of the Caracal Battalion, November 2007. (Yoni Markovitzki/IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
Illustrative: Female soldiers of the Caracal Battalion, November 2007. (Yoni Markovitzki/IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces has begun to roll out reforms of its drafting and training of soldiers, including a reduction in mandatory military service for men.

Starting this month, Israeli men recruited into the IDF will no longer serve three full years but only 32 months instead.

The army has lobbied for an even shorter 28-month service, a request that has thus far been rejected by the Knesset. Female soldiers will continue to serve for two years.

The change is the first in a series of reforms the IDF is expected to unveil in the coming days.

The shortened stint was approved by the previous government as part of universal draft legislation that mandated equal service for all citizens, including the hitherto largely exempt ultra-Orthodox men.

As cutting the length of service will ultimately lead to fewer troops in the army overall, the General Staff is expected to compensate by cutting what it considers to be unnecessary training, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Monday.

Training for combat soldiers throughout the army will drop to six months, in place of the current eight. In addition, each branch of the army will reassess the training necessary for specific positions, with the expectation that they will do away with nonessential elements, such as kitchen duty.

This shorter training period would allow for additional intakes of new recruits, further boosting the number of trained soldiers in the army.

Soldiers in specialty units that require additional training will have to sign on for an additional four months, at a higher pay rate.

In addition to cutting training for combat soldiers, the army is expected to lower the health profile requirement for some less demanding units — including artillery, aerial defense and search and rescue units — and push recruits from those units with higher health scores into combat units.

“We will redefine … the skill level necessary for a position,” officials from the IDF Manpower Directorate told Yedioth Ahronoth.

The army will also encourage more female soldiers into combat roles, the head of the Manpower Directorate’s Planning Division, Meirav Kirschner, told Yedioth.

An additional two mixed-gender battalions will join the Caracal and Jordan Valley Lions units, in which male and female soldiers fight side by side, Yedioth reported.

In the near future, Kirschner said, the IDF will also look to shorten the time period before drafted soldiers are sent for officer training, reduce the number of women soldiers serving in positions outside of the army — in schools and museums, for instance — and increase the enlistment rates of the ultra-Orthodox.

The IDF will also seek to bolster numbers by cracking down on military dropouts — whose numbers have risen to 16 percent in recent years — and reduce them to a more acceptable level of under 10%.

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