As the atmosphere intensifies in the northern region, the IDF (Zahal) does not sit still. The Givati Brigade, which generally specialized in the southern region and fighting in Gaza, recently completed a training exercise to prepare the soldiers for combat in the northern region. Here is an inside look into the IDF (Zahal)’s preparation for fighting against Hezbollah, the differences between combat in the northern region versus the southern region and the training process soldiers go through before operational employment in the north.
The exercise has almost ended. In just one week, the soldiers of the Givati Reconnaissance Battalion have cooperated with the Artillery Corps and the Armored Corps, flown in a helicopter, walked dozens of kilometers and fought in an urban-warfare simulation base. All that is left is to detonate a tunnel and dismantle explosives in booby-trapped houses, and the soldiers are finished. Then suddenly, their commanders inform them that they have another 10 km masa- journey in Hebrew- to complete before the eagerly anticipated conclusion of the exercise. This intensive training ensures that the soldiers will become experts at fighting in Lebanon.
Northern Region-Southern Region
“The IDF (Zahal) has a limited amount of combat forces, and these forces have to know how to fight,” says the operations officer of the Givati Brigade, Major Yaron Simsolo. “We don’t have a surplus of soldiers, so we need to know how to fight on all fronts. From the beginning of their training, the soldiers learn about the terrain and the enemy so that during combat we will not be caught off guard and we will be prepared to face the enemy.”
The role of a brigade’s operations officer is to collect information about operational incidents, and to be responsible for both routine and operational activities. Therefore, Maj. Simsolo can best explain the differences between the regions. Here are some of them:
“After the exercise, the forces begin routine activities in the north,” says Maj. Simsolo. “Part of the training consists of the soldiers guarding in the northern region and understanding the enemy better. When you face the enemy and see it with your own eyes, you can really learn. Part of the training involves a more comprehensive study of the area, the enemy, and all that is happening here. Defending the northern region is a top priority.”
Soldiers of the Givati Brigade getting off the plane which took them to the location of the drill.
A Soldier’s Point-of-View
Back to the exercise, where the soldiers have just been told of the final masa awaiting them. Most of them had already started packing the equipment and praying or resting. For one of the soldiers, Corporal Zach Holtzman, this is his first battalion training. “In this place, you can be surprised at any moment,” he says. “For this reason, we worked very hard in the exercise in order to be as good as we can be. I can say that I had the hardest week of my service, running with all of the equipment weighing me down, through the mud and rain, it is not the most fun,” he says with a smile.
At the end of the journey, which also marks the end of the exercise, the brigade’s commander addresses the exhausted soldiers. “We are facing a challenge, many forces have already served in the north, and other forces have moved down to maintain the [southern] region. We are here serving the people of Israel and working to eliminate any threat that may endanger the people of Israel. We hope that there will be quiet, but if not we will be first to know and we will be prepared.”