For the IDF (Zahal)’s Missing Persons Unit, each broken branch or tire mark is just a piece of the puzzle. Through rigorous examining of the crime scene and meticulous interrogations, our experts locate missing soldiers.
Just a few short months ago, the IDF (Zahal)’s Missing Person’s Unit received a report concerning the disappearance of Sgt. Tomer Hazan. After investigating the case, the unit found him. He was murdered and his body concealed in a water well north of the village of Siniria. This is just one of many cases the IDF (Zahal) Missing Persons Unit is called on to solve.
The Missing Persons Unit (MPU) was founded after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, in order to locate the 2,000 soldiers that went missing during the war. The unit was later dismantled, but after the First Lebanon War it was re-established. Today, every division of the IDF (Zahal) has an MPU team.
The job of the Missing Persons Unit is simple. “Our mission, from the moment there is a suspected absence, is to check whether the soldier has really disappeared. If he has, it is our duty to locate him,” says Sgt. Arik Leshem, MPU commander of the Judea and Samaria Region.
Practice makes perfect
The fake crime scene looks almost as though it was taken straight out of CSI. Mannequins are spread out across the floor, and fake blood is smeared on them and across the rest of the scene.
A few hours earlier, the training officer presents the case to the MPU team. Five soldiers from the reconnaissance company had been sent to set up a relay position. On its way, the team discovered that it had forgotten part of the equipment, and the members were forced to turn back. On their return, this resulted in an unfortunate encounter with the enemy.
Upon arriving at the scene, the MPU team starts investigating. Are there soldiers missing? If so, where are they?
The team begins questioning soldiers and officers who may be able to shed light on the case. Questioning is one of the most important skills for an MPU officer. All of them are reservists, most have a backround in operations or are graduates of the Investigative Military Police. Additionally, the unit recruits people whose civilian profession provides them with the right skills.
Scanning the crime scene is also an extremely important skill. You can discover many things at the scene if you know where to look. An open car door, drag marks, foot prints, broken branches – all these can supply critical information when it comes to finding a missing soldier. For example, drag marks can indicate a kidnapping. “You have to document everything and build the story, document findings, collect blood samples and sketch the scene,” says Captain Amitai Ziv, MPU squad commander in the Judea Regional Brigade.
The scene that the MPU team faces in this exercise is especially difficult. Both vehicles at the scene are burned and only the frame is left. Two mannequin ‘terrorists’ are placed at the scene, and only a sharp-eyed observer can detect a soldier’s body in the area, covered in soil and leaves.
After hours of hard work, the MPU team finds the missing soldiers. “I wanted to continue my reserve duty, and in my opinion this is an important unit.” said Chief Warrant Officer Haim Bachur at the end of the exercise. “Nothing is more important than bringing a soldier to burial.”