Lt. Col. Shlomi and Lt. Rom, a father and son that serve together in Tel-Nof AFB told the IAF Magazine about their different platforms, their journey in the IAF and the rivalry between their divisions

Vered Talala

Lt. Col. Shlomi, Commander of the Flight Test center was driving on highway 6 when an “Eitan” (Heron TP) UAV on its way to land in Tel-Nof AFB caught his eye. “When I see an ‘Eitan’ in the sky, I immediately think about Rom and wonder if he is operating it”, shared Lt. Col. Shlomi, father of Lt. Rom, a UAV Operator in the “White Eagle” Squadron.

Minutes later, the son already updated his father that his aircraft had landed after an operational sortie. “I understood that the aircraft that dad saw was the one that I was piloting”, recalls Lt. Rom and thinks back. “As a kid, I thought that every plane in the sky was my dad’s”.

Better Together

Lt. Rom beside an “Eitan” (Heron TP)  UAV and Lt. Col. Shlomi beside a “Sufa” (F-16I) from the Flight Test Squadron | Photography: Mor Tzidon

Catch a Ride
Shlomi and Rom begin their intensive week by driving to Tel-Nof AFB together. On base they split up: Lt. Rom turns to the “White Eagle” UAV Squadron and Lt. Col. Shlomi to the other end of the base, where the Flight Test Squadron he commands is positioned.

It is rare that a father and son serve together in the same base. “The situation is unique”, described Lt. Col. Shlomi. “Rom has been serving here for over six months and we haven’t yet had the opportunity to eat together in the mess hall on base”.

“The first thing I thought about was the mutual rides to base”, Lt. Rom smiles. “And seriously, serving in the same base as my dad is like brining home to work. When I come to my dad’s squadron for meeting leading up to tests that I lead on behalf of my squadron, I feel like I am home”.

Growing Up in the IAF
Lt. Col. Shlomi who graduated from the IAF’s 123 flight course has been serving in the IAF for 27 years. Throughout his service he has flown the F-4 Phantom, the “Netz” (F-16A/B) “Baz” (F-15) “Ra’am” (F-15I) “Sufa” (F-16I) and is planning on flying the “Adir” (F-35I) in the future.

Most of Lt. Rom’s childhood memories are from Hatzerim AFB, where his family lived. “My friends could recite the names of all of the IDF’s infantry battalions while I knew F-15 measurements & IAF abilities by heart and knew the difference between a ‘Barak’ and ‘Sufa’ just by seeing their tails. As far as I am concerned, I grew up in the IAF including everything it entailed and it was a unique experience”.

Better Together

“Barak” (F-16C/D) from the Test Squadron | Photography: Mor Tzidon

A Good Piece of Advice
Rom drafted directly into the Flight Academy and Lt. Col. Shlomi will never forget the phone call he received from him a year later: “Dad, I was dismissed from the course”. After a year in the Flight Academy, Rom continued to UAV Operators Course and found his place.

“The characteristics of the UAV division correspond with Rom’s personality. Therefore, as a father, I am happy from the journey he underwent until he found his place”, Lt. Col. Shlomi shared. “Throughout the year he spent in Flight School, Tamar (Shlomi’s wife and Rom’s Mother) and I were worried, we weren’t sure that it was right for him. In his transition from the world of flight to the world of UAVs, we saw compatibility, peace of mind, confidence and enjoyment. You can be an excellent professional and technologist, but if you don’t enjoy what you do, it doesn’t work”.

Better Together

“Eitan” (Heron TP) | Archive Photo

Working Together
I ask if their squadrons work together. “We have had many common interfaces with the ‘White Eagle’ Squadron since its establishment in 2010”, answers Lt. Col. Shlomi. “There are developments in the squadron all the time and the cooperation with the Test Squadron in these processes is critical. We perform mutual experiments of different risk levels. I make sure not to work directly with Rom because I think that it is not right, but I enjoy observing mutual projects that he participates in from the side”.

Rom is currently heading an integration project in the “White Eagle” Squadron and is working on the test program in the test squadron. “Knowing that he is the operational authority we are working with is a great feeling and moreover, seeing him participating in meetings in the squadron, brings me great satisfaction”, Lt. Col. Shlomi couldn’t hide his pride.

They have mutual operational interfaces as well. Among other things, UAV Operators are responsible for directing fighter jets to their targets via surveillance systems.

When performing this mission, the UAV Operators maintain direct contact with the fighter pilot in the air. “We haven’t had the opportunity to fly together yet with me as a director and dad as a fighter pilot, but I have heard him on the radio before”, shared Lt. Rom. 

I wonder about the future and Lt. Col. Shlomi replies: “I love flying and want to keep flying as long as I can. The ‘Adir’ division will open soon and there are many years of development before us; that is where I will contribute the abilities that I have acquired over the years. Next year I will finish my service period as Commander of the Test Squadron and step down from career military service. As a reserve serviceman I want to continue to fly and serve the IAF as significantly as I can”.

Lt. Rom: “I am fascinated by medicine. I enjoy serving in the IAF immensely, am proud to wear the flight suit, wake up at two in the morning for a briefing and going home after an intense week”.

At the head of their to-do list for the coming year is having lunch together on base. “It will happen soon”, hopes Lt. Col. Shlomi.  “My main message for Rom and all IAF servicemen and women: work hard, invest yourself, stand by your values and be yourself. It is great knowing that my son is going down this path”.