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In first, IDF appoints woman as commander of air defense battalion

Lt. Col. Revital Barzani to head IAF’s 66th Battalion, which operates David’s Sling system against medium- to long-range rockets and missiles

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

Lt. Col. Revital Barzani is seen during a ceremony marking her entry to the role of commander of the Air Force's 66th Ram Battalion, August 23, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Lt. Col. Revital Barzani is seen during a ceremony marking her entry to the role of commander of the Air Force's 66th Ram Battalion, August 23, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday appointed a female officer to command a battalion in the military’s air defense array, for the first time.

Lt. Col. Revital Barzani, a mother of three, will command the Air Defense Corps’ 66th Ram Battalion, which operates the David’s Sling system, used to intercept medium- to long-range rockets and missiles.

“It is a great privilege for me to take command of the 66th Battalion, a battalion with a diverse history which plays a significant role in defending the skies of the country,” Barzani said at a ceremony marking her entry into the role.

According to the IDF, the battalion ‌‏has downed 11 enemy aircraft over the course of its history, holding the Air Force record for the most enemy aircraft downed from the ground.

The battalion also operates the IDF’s early warning systems for incoming ballistic missiles, alongside the Home Front Command.

“Through the experience and knowledge I have gained over the years, I enter a position in which I hold professional and operational influence as well as a substantial responsibility,” Barzani added.

Lt. Col. Revital Barzani is seen with her husband and three kids next to a David’s Sling system, following a ceremony marking her entry to the role of commander of the Air Force’s 66th Ram Battalion, August 23, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

In recent years, there has also been a growing trend of women serving in combat units and in other roles previously held by men.

In June, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi nominated the military’s first female combat brigade commander, Col. Reut Rettig-Weiss. And last month, the IDF nominated a female officer to head one of the military’s light infantry battalions, for the first time.

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

Meanwhile, the Mossad spy agency announced last week the appointment of the first woman to the senior position of director of intelligence. There are now two women in top positions at the agency, with the second already serving in a key spot as the head of the Iran desk.

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