An IAF Site Special Project: A rare peek into the thoughts and feelings of the force’s combatants about operational, current and personal topics: the wave of terror, ethics of combat, readiness for every theatre and personal aspirations
Vered Talala & Tal Giladi | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida
Maj. Dor, a Transport Helicopter Pilot, Maj. Avi Vaknin, an “Iron Dome” Battery Commander, Capt. Shaked, a UAV Operator and Lt. Tamir, a Fighter Pilot, face the tough questions and provide a rare peek in to the thoughts of the IAF’s combatants.
How does the public view your position in the IAF?
Capt. Shaked, UAV Operator: “I think that today, the public has better knowledge of the world of UAVs but even though the division is more exposed than in the past, there is still some vagueness”.
Lt. Tamir, Fighter Pilot: “The public knows very little about our activity. The civilians should be calm and sure that the IDF and IAF do everything in order to maintain their safety”.
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How do you adjust yourselves to the changing theatres: Syria, Lebanon and Gaza?
Capt. Shaked, UAV Operator: “It is a serious challenge. We never have quiet and we never know where the next operational activity will catch us. We try to maintain a basic level of readiness for all theatres. UAVs are versatile aircraft – wherever we put them, they can execute the mission”.
Lt. Tamir, Fighter Pilot: “There have always been threats from various theatres simultaneously and the IDF has to be aware of them. It requires us to be more professional, know the details and understand how to fly in each theatre amidst its threats”.
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Where do ethics in combat meet you in your activity?
Lt. Tamir, Fighter Pilot: “I have been exposed to many instances in which air attacks were stopped due to a risk of hurting uninvolved civilians. Even when rockets are launched towards Israel from the targeted area, it is likely that we will not attack it if there are uninvolved civilians in the area. Sometimes it feels like you guard your enemy more than it guards itself”.
Capt. Shaked, UAV Operator: “We meet dilemmas of ethics in combat in every campaign anew. The IAF has always been an ethical force and even so, the topic has risen into awareness in the past few years. The enemy understands that we have supremacy in many fields so it has to ‘play’ on the sensitive strings of ethics and use it against us. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes we find creative ways to bypass it without hurting our values and still garner operational achievements”.
Maj. Dor, Transport Helicopter Pilot: “Our mission is mainly to save lives, but ethical dilemmas always come up and aren’t concluded by ‘to shoot or not to shoot’. We can find ourselves rescuing all kinds of people, not necessarily Israeli citizens, when evacuating injured Syrians for example”.
Photography: Mor Tzidon
When did you understand the meaning of your position?
Maj. Avi, “Iron Dome” Battery Commander: “My model is a commander that lives his soldiers, sleeps with them in the field and waked up with them in the morning. As a commander, I always ask my soldiers what they are good at and what the unique thing that only they can bring. When directing a young officer you need to give him a free hand and the opportunity to make mistakes in order to gain experience”.
Capt. Shaked, UAV Operator: “When you put your head down on the pillow at the end of the day, after finishing your operational activity, after your aircraft has landed and after you debriefed, the understanding that you’re doing something big and significant hits you”.
Maj. Dor, Transport Helicopter Pilot: “The meaning of my duty is clear to me. Our job is to save people, plain and simple. For every person we helped rescue, we rescued a circle of friends and family that got their loved one back. This is what gives me the power to do what I do”.
Photography: Shay Finkelman
How does the current wave of terror effect the nature of your activity and what, in your opinion, is the IAF’s place in dealing with the wave?
Maj. Dor, Transport Helicopter Pilot: “We have been deployed to the field a few times in the recent period as a part of the force-wide ready alert for life saving. These events usually take you by surprise. One minute you are working in the squadron and suddenly there is a siren, you gear up and run to the helicopter and receive the mission in the air. We are on constant ready-alert so that we are available for civilians that need us at all times”.
Capt. Shaked, UAV Operator: “The recon and aerial surveillance division changes in accordance with the operational theatre, for example, when Gaza warms up, we will increase our activity there, like in every other relevant theatre”.
How do you see your future in the IAF and was there a figure that influenced you in your service?
Capt. Shaked, UAV Operator: “The combination of the quality of the people, the fascinating work and the privilege to serve my country, made me select a target for myself – to be a UAV Squadron Commander in the IAF. I hope that this goal will be realized one day”.