Today, a number of excited soldiers will be drafting into the IAF’s elite commando unit – “Shaldag”. Who is the “Shaldag” combatant?
Nadav Shaham | Translation by: Ofri Aharon and Ohad Zeltzer-Zubida
New soldiers are drafting today into the “Shaldag” (Hebrew for Kingfisher) Unit, the IAF’s Commando Unit and will now go through an exhausting 24 months training period.
Serving as a “Shaldag” SFOR combatant is a dream to many, however, few are lucky enough to wear the wings many yearn for. The combatants’ journey is quite the challenge: they go through an intensive training period that simulates complex situations such as encounters with enemy forces, survival in enemy territories and conducting intense missions that are kept untold.
“We are looking for creative people with the ability to work in small teams and who would be able to continue working at the level expected of them in extreme scenarios”, explained Brig. Gen. (Res.) E’, who served as the Commander of Special Aerial Forces.
Many combatants served in the unit over the years, however, it seems that their attributes have stayed the same throughout the generations. However, the present reality in which the combatants operate is completely different than in the past. The IDF and IAF are currently using cutting edge technologies and the weaponry currently used is much more complex and advanced than ever before.
“The operational experience the unit has acquired over the years has helped find the right people for the job, that have the right characteristics”, added Brig. Gen. (Res.) E’. “The training systems continue to advance. The challenges are greater and with that the combatants’ courage”. Who are todays “Shaldag” cobbatants and what is expected of the new soldiers?
“They won’t take their foot off the gas”
Yoav Asa, founder of “Make Me A Combat Solider”, has been training teenagers who approaching enlistment for the past 13 years. When he thinks of his protégés that became combatants in “Shaldag”, he finds multiple mutual characteristics.
“They know how to work for long periods of time, they don’t make excuses. They always reach the goals they set for themselves”, he explained. “They never take their foot off the gas, they have high expectations from themselves”.
Like in every SFOR unit, the combatants’ physical abilities are central part of their military service. Because the unit’s operational requirements are particularly challenging, the combatants need to be well trained. “They need to be able to recover from strain quickly, deal with physical difficulty for long periods of time and with extremely heavy weights”.
Asa compares the “Shaldag” combatants with another individual required to maintain top physical abilities, an athlete. “He is the opposite of a combatant. He enjoys optimal conditions, rests between exercises maintains a proper diet. The combatant on the other hand, even during a field week or war week when the diet is awful and the fatigue builds, the units requirements still need to be met”.
A day will come and I will be one of them
Excellent physical fitness isn’t enough in order to transform a young man into a combatant. The unit’s selection team looks for specific traits which will suit its nature. “The combatants need to deal with high pressure and still put on a calm face. To initiate actions in the field and be independent, so in the case of them being alone in enemy territory they would be able to cope”, elaborated Brig. Gen. (Res) E’.
One of these young men is Yoav. During the interview he himself was in the course of preparing for the unit’s trial period prior to selection for elite army units. Today, he will realize a dream by joining the unit’s ranks.
“I want to be in ‘shaldag’ because it’s a unit of the highest caliber, its activity fascinates me”, he said. The will to serve in a combat unit isn’t new to him, Yoav has been dreaming about joining SFOR unit for years. “Older friends of mine always told me about experiences from their service, about their great friends from their units, it motivated me to take this path”.
Yoav didn’t just dream about his service, but also worked in order to achieve it. He trained six times a week in a combat fitness group and by himself. “I’m prepared to do a lot in order to serve there”.