Training for a crisis, virtually

Soldiers using a simulator during the exercise. Photo: Judah Ari Gross, IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson’s Unit

Home Front reservists recently participated in an exercise training them to respond to missile attacks using an advanced simulator

Date: 13/06/2013, 7:04 PM     Author: Malka Grossman

Anyone who would have walked into the building might have thought he or she had walked into a large-scale video arcade.

Many people were sitting in front of their computers playing what appeared to be a game. Some were using a joystick to drive a car through a city street. Others were guiding a computerized person into a building. Each of them had his or her own walkie talkie.

But this was not a game – this was a special training exercise at the IDF (Zahal) Home Front Command’s Virtual Training Center for Crisis Management, located near Ramle. The participants were soldiers and professionals and their goal was to save lives by replicating real-life scenarios and reviewing what they would need to do if missiles were to fall upon urban centers around Israel.

This training simulation, designed by Elbit Systems, mimicked a situation in which Haifa was being struck by missiles. Its participants included reservists, police officers and paramedics.


Training for a crisis, virtually

Participants in the simulation. Photo: Judah Ari Gross, IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson’s Unit

Participants were divided into teams, each of which was responsible for a different task. Some dispatched emergency vehicles, some performed chemical testing, and others were in charge of instructing the civilian populace – who in this simulation sat calmly in their safe rooms with gas masks on.
Throughout the exercise, loud sirens sounded periodically in the training center, indicating that another missile had fallen in the simulation. Everyone involved in the exercise had to put on a real gas mask and continue working while wearing it, until receiving a signal that it was safe to remove them.

At the conclusion of the simulation, its results were analyzed in a visual presentation by Avi Goldblatt, one of the system’s designers.

Preparing reservists for the worst

Lt. Shlomo Haybi, an instructor for an emergency unit of the Adjutancy Corps, explained that the purpose of this simulation exercise was to ensure that reservists know how to properly respond to the needs of the populace during a crisis. “All these reservists here are the ones who will be put into action during a wartime situation,” he said.

Training for a crisis, virtually

Participants in the simulation. Photo: Judah Ari Gross, IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson’s Unit

One of the reservists involved in the exercise was Staff Sgt. (res.) Barack Weissman from Bnei Brak. Though he finished his required service in 2004, he still returns for a couple of weeks each year for reserve duty. His job now is as a chemical weapons analyst.

During the simulation, he and his comrades determined where each missile had fallen and identified its type. For every chemical weapon, they ran tests, determining which type of chemical had been used and which type of medicine should be distributed to treat it. They then passed this information on to related teams, which determined how to distribute medicine, when to safely remove gas masks and when to come out of safe rooms.

“This exercise allows me to practice how to navigate in an urban atmosphere,” Staff Sgt. Weissman explained. “What are the contact points in a city? Whom do we call in order to receive the equipment we need?”

Another reservist, Maj. (res.) Danny Tzion, worked with a gas mask team during the simulation. Though his required service ended in 1973, he still returns for reserve duty 50 to 60 days each year in the Home Front Command.

“I finished my required service to the country but I wanted to contribute the experience and knowledge I have gained since leaving the army in order to protect the country and its citizens,” he explained. “Doing reserve duty is energizing. It keeps me healthy.”