Last week, in their final project before becoming officers in the IAF’s elite Ofek unit, a group of soldiers received a complex task: to develop their own computer software within 24 hours.
In the final round of a 10-week course for the Israel Air Force’s computing unit, soldiers of the elite Ofek unit competed in their own unique version of Facebook’s legendary 24 hour hackathon. These future officers pitched their software ideas – developed in just one day – to elite IAF commanders. The IAF’s computing unit, Ofek, aims to advance current technological needs in the military, from IAF aircrafts and command and control systems to logistical management systems and human resources.
The ideas presented, ranging from maintaining fair distribution of guard duty schedules to creating a more stringent fitness program for soldiers, are meant to initiate new software programs that address current needs in the military.
“Entrepreneurship and innovation are the key values of our unit,” says Lt. A, one of two course commanders for this group of future Ofek officers. “The role of our future officers is to exploit their programming capabilities for the development of the Israel Air Force and the IDF (Zahal) as a whole.”
From the initial content to its development, the soldiers were divided into four working groups, each of which worked on its own software idea that solves an existing problem in the most optimal and efficient way possible.
One of the four groups decided to address the issue of courses offered in the IDF (Zahal) by developing software that tracks the courses and their dates, and allows for any soldier to sign up for the courses online. The aim is to minimize the waiting time and create more transparency so that soldiers can feel free to sign up for courses being offered without any hassle.
Another project that was presented involved soldiers’ fitness regime. Non-combat soldiers in many units in the IDF (Zahal) are restricted when it comes to fitness, spending most of their days in front of computers in software development, intelligence, or other units that are less physically demanding. The group launched software that soldiers can to motivate themselves to stay healthy, find fitness classes on their bases, and create sports teams with other soldiers on base, leveraging the social aspect of fitness to encourage a healthy lifestyle.
When discussing the relevance that this unit has in the military, Lt. O, the course’s second commander, explained that “this is about much more than personal development of our soldiers. It’s about the progression of the military and soldiers’ lives as a whole with the ideas and software being developed and advanced here.”
Every soldier in the elite Ofek unit signs an extra three years of service beyond their compulsory service, ensuring that they are able to develop their ideas to fruition.