At the end of last year, some 30 combat soldiers in the Israeli army took part in a very different activity from those they’d been tasked with on the field. They sat down behind computers and took a course in how to fight hackers in the cyber sphere.
“We gave them an entry card to the world of cybersecurity,” said Captain R., head of the IDF’s National Cyber Defense training center, who’s in charge of a new program called Cyber Accessibility. The seven-week program handpicked 30 combat soldiers at the end of their three-year compulsory army service and gave the basic tech skills to provide cybersecurity services to organizations.
They graduated the course earlier this month, passing tests given to them by the Israel’s National Cyber Directorate, said Captain R., who could not be identified by name for security purposes. “We gave them a passage back into the world” of civilian life, he said.
Unlike graduates of the IDF’s intelligence and cybersecurity units — who are courted by Israeli and multinational tech companies while they are still in uniform, and swooped up as they leave the military into high-paying jobs — combat soldiers, after years of putting their lives on the line, often enter university or the job market without the skills they need.
Besides the technical skills the course gives them, said Captain R., these soldiers toured Startup Nation, meeting with startups, entrepreneurs and company officials who spoke to them about employment opportunities. They were also given soft skills, like how to write a resume and ace a job interview.
“The civilian workplace is a foreign world to them,” said Captain R., as they have been in an army framework for the past few years. “This is our way of showing thanks to a very important population of the IDF that chose to become combat soldiers. We are giving them a springboard for their lives as civilians, outside the army.”
The course was set up by the IDF’s computer division together with the army’s training department.
The IDF is planning to continue the course this year, Captain R. said.