The 669 Search & Rescue Unit conducts dozens of extractions a year
“When there are injuries, and a real helicopter comes from the skies, exeryone stops. The feeling cannot be explained”
Practicing aerial rescue under fire
“We train for the worst-case scenario” Just last week, the elite 669 Search & Rescue crew was rushed to save an injured commander and soldier of the infantry corps. Now, the crew met with the ‘Egoz’ Reconnaissance Unit and trained the complex procedure of rescuing the injured under fire. The IAF website got an exclusive peek of the unique cooperation
Tal Michael| Photography: Yonatan Zalk
Almost a day before the stage battle had begun, forces of the Golani Brigade faced a real terroristic shooting incident near the Gaza strip and Kisufim. A company commander and soldier were injured and an in-flight crew was rushed to the scene on a 669 Search & Rescue helicopter for the rescue. After receiving primary treatment, the injured were transferred to Soroka Hospital. Soon, the incident was concluded without any special complications, for one reason only: The units have trained for these sorts of scenarios many times before.
“I don’t think there is even a reason for me to explain why these exercises are crucial. The facts talk for themselves “, says Captain Dr. Omri Shaintel, commanding Officer of the Medical Unit in the Golani Brigade. This time around, ‘Egoz’ fighters, which are also known as the commando unit of the brown beret, arrived at Tel Nof Airbase to prepare for that real moment at which they’ll be under attack and may need assistance from above–somewhat similarly to what happened over the weekend.
“A missile hit the house. We’re going in”
The events of that particular day cannot be forgotten. The outline of the Gaza Strip isn’t as dense and forested as it looks in the training session but these could be the fields that our fighters will face. “During the Second Lebanon War, the forces were in tangled guerilla fields all the time”, says Sergeant Major Yoni, a former fighter of the 669 Search & Rescue team, today responsible for the unit’s training sessions with ground forces.
In the year of 2006, ‘Egoz’ lost five of its fighters in the Lebanon War and was assisted by the in-flight 669 Search & Rescue team. “We are preparing for the worst case scenario, where there’ll probably be many injuries. It is best that the different units communicate with each other, before these occurrences happen”, states Sergeant Major Yoni and turns the Hangar’s lights off. A switch in the control room is turned on and suddenly sounds of shooting and explosion are heard. Egoz fighters immediately break into the building.
“A missile hit a house and our forces are trapped inside. Were going in”, says a broken voice on the communicator. “We have a badly wounded man. Right hand and left leg bleeding “, says the voice again, as the explosion continues cutting the line.”In 15 minutes a helicopter will get to you”, promises Sergeant Major Yoni, as he commits the unit to a race against time. “They have to take care of the injured now”, he says without telling them that the fictitious helicopter will arrive there beforehand. In the meantime, the people in the dark hangar are trying to keep the injured live. “Someone needs to try directing the helicopter. Well, actually keep an eye on the injured, I’ll go”, says one of the fighters.
Finally, a helicopter arrived and the huge ventilators start spinning rapidly, “Cats, Let’s go!” says Sergeant Major Yoni through the communicator. As the preplaced helicopter door opens widely, seven or eight 669 fighters come out of the helicopter and assist the ground forces in securing the helicopter from shooting. Immediately after, they hurry to get the injured onto the aircraft.
“It’s not a feeling that can be expressed”
That was it, the first part of training was over. During a real battle, the evacuating forces would have proceeded to the closest hospital while the ground forces would have had to regain composure and return to battle.
“When there are injuries on hand, and a real helicopter arrives from up above, everyone stops for a minutes, takes a look up and get excited. It’s not a feeling that can be expressed”, says First sergeant Itay, a fighter/paramedic of the ‘Egoz’ Unit, who has already operated under fire. “You waited for it to land, make sure that the injured are carefully elevated onto it and go back to battle, as if nothing happened. At that moment you have to forget what ever happened and loom forward. There is no time for you to stop”.