After a year and a half of rigorous training, new operators have joined the elite SAR Unit 669 – the IAF’s airborne rescue and evacuation unit. In an emotional ceremony they received the unit’s crest, a winged, green-eyed, black cat, a symbol of their success. One of the graduates is SRGT. Dave, a lone soldier that was reunited with his father whom he had not seen for a long period of time

Vered Talala | Translation: Ofri Aharon

Last night, a new generation of operators joined SAR Unit 669 after completing 18 months of rigorous training. The young operators received the unit’s crest, a winged, green-eyed, black cat from the IAF Commander himself in an exciting ceremony, a testimony of their success and worthiness.

“You are a small and select group about to bear great responsibility. SAR 669 Unit has a unique function in the IAF, with great national significance”, stated IAF Commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, to the graduates. “At the end of such a strenuous and demanding training period, you have been found worthy to be a part of the best of the best. You proved your abilities in combat, rescue, medicine and most importantly your strong personality, determination and flexibility”.

In a celebratory atmosphere, the new operators completed one of the most difficult courses in the IDF, during which they acquired a variety of abilities in order to make them exceptional operators. With their parents, commanders and friends in the audience, the combatants began the ceremony with a performance of their abilities, in which they gave the audience a taste of the abilities they acquired during their training, such as: extraction of injured people while repelling from helicopters, transporting injured people while repelling down cliffs, rappelling from high heights in order to extract injured people and other breathtaking performances.

Meet SAR Unit 669’s New Operators

  A new generation of operators joined SAR Unit 669 | Photo by: Mor Tzidon

Operators or Life Savers?
The unit’s operators partake in hundreds of rescues in Israel every year. “The amount of operational work the unit takes part in has risen significantly over the past two years”, explained Maj. Dror, Commander of the Rescue, Evacuation and Extraction Academy. “This operational reality has required us to conduct changes in the unit’s order of that affected the current graduating course”. The new operators are expected to take part in many complicated extractions. “The course was built to firstly make them soldiers, then combatants and lastly rescue and extraction operators. In my opinion, saving a life is the most supreme fighting there is, for which sake one must first be a combatant”.

The extraction mission requires the unit’s operators to constantly be ready and fit. “They should always give their all, care for the injured and give them everything they can in order to save a life”, emphasized Maj. Dror, the Course Commander. “Extraction missions require expertise and professionalism as well as team work, they are complicated missions and there’s no room for mistakes”.

Meet SAR Unit 669’s New Operators

 “The amount of operational work the unit takes part in has risen significantly” | Photo by: Mor Tzidon

“There is nothing like experiencing Israel in the IDF”
Among the excited parents in the crowd, SRGT. Dave’s father, who finally had the opportunity to see his son after a long while, was especially noticeable. SRGT. Dave is one of two lone soldiers who graduated yesterday. He made Aliyah and drafted in 2014, after Operation “Protective Edge”. “The operation made me want to draft even more”, he shared. SRGT. Dave was born in Israel to a Belgium mother and American father and at the age of 13 he and his parents moved to the United States. “I was the only Israeli student in my high school in the U.S, which made me an ambassador for Israel. Everywhere I went people asked me about Israel and I would answer. I understood that it isn’t enough just to talk about Israel and that I had to experience Israel, and there is nothing like experiencing Israel in the IDF”.

Meet SAR Unit 669’s New Operators

SRGT. Dave and his father reunited | Photo by: Mor Tzidon

“People that I grew up with in the U.S were working and supporting themselves financially while I went through this mentally and physically challenging course”, he stated. “I found out that I could do many things that in the past I wouldn’t even imagine because they were so extreme”. Stewart, SRGT. Dave’s father came all the way from the United States to see his son’s graduation ceremony. “His mother and I are very proud of him for finishing his training and for what he has achieved until now”, he shared. “We think about him a lot, we miss him at home. I hope he won’t have to use his military training”.

What is left for Dave and the rest of his unit to do is wait for their first deployment. “I assume I will be very excited during my first deployment, but I will have to remember that there is an injured person waiting and I must do everything I can to save his life”, he stated.


Meet SAR Unit 669’s New Operators

 What is left for Dave and the rest of his unit to do is wait for their first deployment | Photo by: Mor Tzidon