In honor of Druze Soldier Day, IDF (Zahal) Website joins the all-Druze Sword Battalion for a large-scale training exercise overseen by Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz

Date: 17/06/2012, 3:44 PM     Author: Adam May

On Druze Soldier Day, mentioned today, the IDF (Zahal) salutes its Druze soldiers. Israel’s Druze population, constituting only two percent of the total Israeli population, is thriving in the IDF (Zahal). The rate of enlistment within the Druze sector is consistently high and continues to increase currently standing on 83 percent. Druze soldiers reach every unit in the IDF (Zahal), though most take on combat positions including the elite commando unit- Sayeret Matkal. In addition, a large number of IDF (Zahal) officers are Druze.

This past week, the Sword Battalion, a regional infantry unit solely composed of Druze soldiers, began an immense training exercise under the supervision of the Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz that incorporated all elements of the battalion, including cooperation with tanks, artillery, and the engineering corps.

High levels of enlistment to the IDF (Zahal) among Israel’s northern Druze population, an all-Druze battalion was created to allow the soldiers to serve closer to home alongside friends from their villages. During peacetime operations, the Herev battalion defends Israel’s northern border, where the majority of the Druze villages lie. A commander in the unit, who chose to remain anonymous, said, “We are a unique unit in that we have both a wartime mission and a day-to-day mission. In the day-to-day we defend the area; most of these soldiers are defending their own villages. Not all units are like that. “

However, in wartime, the battalion will be responsible for Israel’s border with Lebanon. The weeklong training exercise took place in the Golan Heights in order to help the battalion remain prepared for any circumstance. “We are in very good shape, but we are always training to get better,” said the commander in the unit. “The exercise is designed to simulate battle in Lebanon, the enemy we are fighting is the Hezbollah.”

The Chief of the General Staff joined the brigade on Wednesday morning (June 13) in order to oversee the exercise and was impressed with the soldiers’ level of professionalism. He often paused alongside hard-working soldiers to offer tips on shooting and positioning. On a hillside overlooking a recently conquered field, Lt. Gen. Gantz joined the battalion commanders for a debriefing session, offering whatever advice he had on the maneuvering of strategic forces along the intricate terrain.

The complex exercise lasted until the following night, culminating in a march up Mount Hermon. “We are attempting to operate in built up and complex areas in order to recreate some of the situations that took place in [The 2nd Lebanon War in] 2006,” said the commander. “We aim to conquer the whole mountain range, from the valley to the hills. It’s very interesting and very challenging work.”

Tired soldiers, who had been at work for well over 12 hours pour over the hills, systematically conquering strategic points along the hillsides. Supported by a company of tanks, soldiers weaved along the high ground, pausing to neutralized simulated targets that surprised them along the way. “There is a lot of shooting, this is a very long exercise,” said Cpt. Aiman Falach, a logistics officer within the unit. “The soldiers have been incredibly professional, we tightly orchestrate to companies to help conquer the positions as efficiently as possible.”