On July 26th 2010, a helicopter accident involving “Yasur” (Sikorsky CH 53) occurred during an Israeli Air Force exercise in Romania. The following day, at 6:15am, a search and rescue delegation of the IAF left to locate and return the helicopter crew for burial in Israel. An event in honor of the members of the search and rescue delegation was recently hosted by the Commander of the Israeli Air Force
Itay Itamar, Photographer: Aviv Mazor
“There is nothing happy about this evening and yet I am still happy to see everyone here”, said Col. Y. commander of the “Night Raptors” squadron at the opening of the evening.
“The establishment of this unique and diverse search and rescue delegation was the first of its kind. As you heard about the accident, you were recruited to the delegation. And with the power of your conscience, you weren’t ordered. You acted even before there was an order. I saw the values of the Israeli Air Force in your eyes”.
Throughout the event, a movie was on display showing the activities of the search and rescue mission, and the delegation members coping with the difficult sights and moments of crisis in the mission.
“One of the tools that helped and continues to help me to cope with the difficulties of a search and rescue soldier is the ability to detach myself emotionally from the mission”, explained Col. A., commander of search & rescue Unit 669. “This ability is largely based on the anonymity of the rescuees. However, in this mission the situation was completely different. As soon as the updates from the commander of the base were received, the faces and the names started to appear. The outcome of many years of professional and personal acquaintances turned this mission upside down, complicating the mission and making it much more difficult. It was the commitment and professionalism of the members of the delegation that lead to the successful execution of this complicated mission, in a foreign country and amongst difficult conditions. I want to thank the commanders for the giving us the ability to work independently and I hope that in the future we’ll act only in missions that succeed in saving lives”.
Commander in Chief of the Israeli Air Force, Major General Ido Nehushtan, together with Brig. Gen. E., commander of the base, awarded certificates of appreciation for their demonstration of devotion during the mission, professionalism, decisiveness, camaraderie, and brotherhood of soldiers.
Brig. Gen. E. gave his appreciation to the many units that took part in the different aspects of the search and rescue mission of bringing the soldiers to their burial in Israel. “In the search and rescue mission that you and your colleagues executed, you put to action the very values that the Israeli Air Force has instilled in us. You didn’t decide to just stand up to this test; you rose to it with honor”.
The first to receive certificates of appreciation were the members of Unit 669. After them, the following groups were commended for the excellent demonstration of their search and rescue capabilities: the leaders of the Shaldag Commando Unit, the identification and burial unit of the Military Rabbinate, the Accident Investigation Unit, the Hercules squadrons “Elephants”, “Yellow Bird” and “Giant Desert” the loading unit of the Israeli Air Force, the Company Commander of the Connection Battalion, and the leaders of the Canine Special Forces Unit.
“The entire delegation, more than a hundred people, left in the blink of an eye, almost without saying anything”, concluded the IAF commander. “Everyone understood what they needed to do and there was not one person that didn’t request to do even more. Our most holy requirement was to return our people home for burial as fast as possible. We, the Israeli Air Force and the families of the soldiers, are proud of you for your efforts and the way that you stood up to the test. This was also a test of the strength of the idea that we are called ‘the Israeli Air Force family.’ This evening’s event reminds us of what we experienced and if there is something positive to take from it, it’s the unlimited power of this family and to help each other when times are difficult, to appreciate our blessings”.