The “Defenders of the West” squadron cooperates with the Israeli Navy on a regular basis, requiring its technicians to often set sail. What is it like to be an IAF technician at sea?
The “Defenders of the West” squadron’s technical division prepare the helicopter for flight, fix malfunctions and perform their routine tasks like every other technicians in the IAF, but unlike them, they are required to perform those tasks also in the sea.
“The technicians can sail for a period of between two days and two weeks”, says Sergeant Major Mariano Nutienka, who is in charge of a “Panther” helicopters hangar in the squadron. “They are an integral part of the helicopter and ship’s team and must carry out their missions on the ship the same way they do it on land”.
The “Defenders of the West” squadron is known for its tight cooperation with the IN (Israeli Navy). The squadron has also taken part in the recently completed “Reliant Mermaid” training exercise, a mega naval exercise combining the Israeli and American Navies and the IAF. The squadron’s technicians take a significant part in it, from the stage of training to execution. “In most of the cases, the technicians are no longer involved after the helicopters take flight, yet their contribution to the success of the mission in invaluable and they do feel much satisfied”, adds says SGM Nutienka.
In the Dark of the Sea
The great feeling of satisfaction is accompanied by many challenges. The position requires a high level of English and Medical Profile in order for the technicians to be able to join the missions. They also need to be familiarized with the working procedures in the ship and adjust themselves to operation in the open sea. “Anyone who has ever sailed for a long period of time, knows that staying in one place is not a simple task and that mental strength is necessary”.
The technicians must also sometimes carry out their missions in complete darkness, while everything is moving around them. “Working on a ship is much more difficult than working on the ground”, adds SSgt Denis Dobrovolski, a technician in the squadron. “The work is done under uncomfortable conditions and in any weather”.
Staying in the middle of the sea for a long time with the same people creates deep connections between the different soldiers in the squadron. “The team is never apart while at sea”, says SGM Nutienka. “You can see a simple soldier sitting for a talk with the commander of the squadron”. The friendships are also made with the navy sailors, who are helped the squadron team in routine missions like cooking and cleaning.