The Central Command’s Forward Rescue Unit recently conducted an exercise simulating the extraction of heavy vehicles in combat scenarios

Date: 01/01/2013, 7:33 PM     Author: Yael Livnat

The Central Command’s Forward Rescue Unit, comprised entirely of reservist soldiers, completed a weeklong training exercise last week to train for the extraction of heavy and light vehicles caught under fire in battle. The various drills included the extraction of tanks, APCs (armored personnel carriers) and AFVs (armored fighting vehicles).

The Forward Rescue Unit is regularly made up of four separate squads and trains as a company once a year. This sets them apart from other reserve units, which are required by law to conduct unit-wide trainings once every three years. The unit mainly deals with especially complex rescue operations that are difficult for standard rescue forces to perform.

“The unit knows how to extract every kind of vehicle, even in the battlefield in the most complicated situations, from the tank that has had a charge activated against it to a tank that’s broken down in the mud with soldiers inside,” explained Maj. Itai Avisha, the drill commander. “The unit’s capability is not at all trivial. Every brigade commander today wants representatives of the unit close, because in the battle field he depends on them, and they are the ones who prevent the situation from becoming a security weak point,” he said.

In last week’s training the reservists worked on rescue operations which emphasized the operational element. Maj. Avisha said that “the drill is performed once a year, and the main concern is usually the professional element. This time we emphasized especially the operational aspect, including weapons training and team drills.” He said that “ultimately the rescue workers operate in the field like tank soldiers in every way, thus they need to know how to perform moving fire drills, both on foot and in vehicles, as part of their rescue and navigation work.”

Rescue work in the line of fire

The unit’s recue company commander Chief Warrant Officer (res.) Richard Avizeret explained that the most complex rescue missions are those in which vehicles are caught under fire. “When we are rescuing in normal conditions not under fire, we can arrive at the field, exit the transport vehicle, and learn and see what needs to be done and how to perform the extraction, when all the options are open in front of us. But when we are under tense fire, there is a minimum of things we take with us, and we must work quickly with the means available,” explained CWO (res.) Avizeret.

The company commander noted that the squads are very exposed to harm, and deal with many physical and mental difficulties. He also explained that in Operation Defensive Shield the unit had to deal with circumstances where its soldiers were exposed to fire while extracting soldiers from tanks caught in the field of combat.“Gradually we learned how to manage such situations, and we learned the necessary lessons in order to develop the techniques that provided protection to the rescuers,” CWO (res.) Avizeret said. At every opportunity the unit practices creating a barrier between themselves and the area of the enemy, and perform every training exercise with an emphasis on protecting the rescuers.

The unit’s reservists must be permanently available and fit to perform missions. “The unit is considered an elite reserve unit by the Ordnance Corps. It has many volunteers who are past the time of their mandatory reserve service and they are all available twenty four seven,” said Maj. Avisha. He added that there are high demands placed on members of the unit, and that “it is a role that demands a high level of professionalism. Rescue work is very “dirty”, always in physically unsuitable locations, and in difficult weather conditions. Rescue work can take many hours, and is founded on a high level of motivation, connections between people, the value of camaraderie, and that is a thing that very much distinguishes the unit.”

The forward rescue unit may be in a state of constant readiness but CWO (res.) Avizeret said that there is always a need for more preparation. “I never say that we are ready enough because I believe that there is always more to learn and more to aspire towards. We cannot know what will happen each day and surprising events always happen,” he said, adding that, “from year to year we are in a better state of readiness, and together with that we are exposed to new information. In Defensive Shield, the threat was bullets, today it’s missiles and anti-tank mines, and it is these new threats that we need to deal with, therefore we will not rest on our laurels but aspire to learn more at all times.”