After 28 years of unique military service, he will soon retire his uniform: Col. A’ drafted as a volunteer, came up through the ranks and as a high ranking officer and father, successfully completed the rigorous 669 Special Operators Advanced Training Course. His story proves that the saying “The sky isn’t the limit” is much more than a cliché

Eilon Tohar | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida

Col. A’ will soon retire his uniform after 28 years of service in the IAF. Throughout his service, he served in many covert and overt units in the IAF, such as the “Shaldag” Aerial Commando Unit and SAR Unit 669 and later in the General Staff. He was the Operations Department Officer in the Depth Command upon its establishment and is currently serving as Commander of the Security Department in the Aerial Operations Directorate and, he is a volunteer.

The IDF has seen a handful of senior commanders who were defined as volunteers as a result of injuries they sustained in combat, but Col. A’s story is one of a kind: he drafted as a volunteer on medical grounds and rose through the ranks to combat oriented and senior positions. “I don’t make a habit of talking about me being a volunteer with every person I meet, but once in a while, I speak in military forums and share the story of my journey in order to make a point of emphasizing to commanders that their soldiers’ background and data don’t matter and that they should locate the right people”, shared Col. A’ and tells us about the responses he receives: “I am an example. There is no doubt that for many people, seeing a Colonel in the IAF, a former special operator – is unusual”

Special Operator, Colonel, Volunteer

“Shladag” Special Operators | Archive Photo

“I believed in the importance of military service”
30 years ago, Col. A’ reported to the recruiting office where he learned that he couldn’t serve in the IDF as a result of his bee sting allergies. But he didn’t take “No” for an answer. “I believed in the importance of military service, but it was a different generation, I didn’t know any other volunteers”.

He began his military service in one of the IAF’s most elite and classified units – The “Shaldag” Aerial Commando Special Operations Unit, in which he was positioned as a mechanic. “I understood that I wanted to do more and delved into the field of weapons. The unit’s then Commander, Benny Gantz (who went on to become the IDF Chief of General Staff) was a significant factor in my promotion and enrollment into the Officers Academy. He fought for me to return to the unit as an officer and as an officer I held a number of positions in ‘Shaldag’ and even had the privilege of participating in operational activity”.

Over the years, Col. A’ came up through the ranks while serving in many different positions and upon leaving the ‘Shaldag’ unit, served as head of the Space and Satellite Department in the IAF. He was sure that retirement was around the corner, when he received an offer to serve as the Deputy Commander of the 669 SAR Unit. He had but one condition: to participate in a full conversion in the rigorous 669 Special Operators Advanced Training Course and serve as an operator. For over 6 months, the 32 year old, married father of two, joined the young operators in training and studied alongside them. From rappelling, skydiving and diving to an in depth acquaintance with helicopters, Col. A’ was there for it all.

Special Operator, Colonel, Volunteer

SAR Unit 669 Operators | Archive Photo

Giving His All
“When I drafted, I understood that I had received an opportunity unique to the military: the influence and responsibility for human lives that officers receive at a young age – are unparalleled”, he said. “I went far because I never perceived myself as special or privileged, but wanted to make an influence and give back the most I could and I have of course received no less”.