Commander in Chief of the IDF, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz
Commander of the IAF, Commander of the Southern Command and Commander in Chief of the IDF
Commander of the IAF, Major General Ido Nehushtan “Shaldag” (Kingfisher) celebrating 35. The IAF Commando Unit allowing a rare peek into its ranks, as generations of fighters congregated for the celebration
Very rarely is any information regarding the activity of the secretive “Shaldag” Unit ever publicized, but it turns out that they’ve been right here, operating for longer than a generation.
The IAF’s Commando Unit, which was founded in 1976 as a lesson from the Yom Kippur War, quickly cemented its position as one of the elite units of the IDF.
Last night, the unit celebrated 35 years of activity that include Operation “Solomon” (1991), Operation “Accountability” (1993), Operation “Grapes of Wrath” (1996) and Operation “Sharp and Smooth” (2006) among others that can be derived from the units secretive nature: ground activity in special operations, in various combat scenes and in aerial missions.
The name of the unit is also derived from the nature of its activity. Its founder, Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Muki Betzer, claims it was named “Shaldag” (Hebrew for kingfisher) because of the similarity between the way the kingfisher bird catches its prey and the kinds of operations that the unit carries out.
“One of the main pillars, in the future as well”
The Commando Unit’s ceremonious day, which was conducted together with its alumni association, was headed by Commander of the IDF, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, and Commander of the IAF, Major General Ido Nehushtan.
The Commander of the IDF himself knows the unit very well. In fact, he was commander of the unit in 1989-1991 through Operation “Solomon”, in which 14,400 Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel.
“This is a quality unit that does interesting and very important things. When you arrive at it, you feel that you’re getting involved with an extremely professional unit. You need courage and a vision and with good people you get results. In this case, it is undoubtedly an excellent result”, said the Commander of the IDF in his speech. “When you look at the threats and the places that they go to, you realize that we need this ability. Shaldag has been one of the main pillars of the IDF throughout the years, and in our vision of the future”.
“We’re happy that this unit is part of the IAF family”, added the Commander of the Force, Major general Ido Nehushtan. “It’s a special unit that operates very far away from the spotlight. You do things quietly and humbly, and your glory is found not in newspaper headlines but in the security of the State of Israel. The combination of the quality people of the unit with the way the IAF operates, is a winning one and as true as it has ever been”.
In the peer meeting that was held between past and present fighters of the unit, the presence of Commander of the Southern Command, Major General Tal Russo and Commander of the Home Front Command, Major General Eyal Eisenberg along with other officials from the IDF was also noted.