We met three of the 17 outstanding IAF soldiers honored by the President for Israel’s 69th Independence Day. Here are their stories

Hadas Levav

Sergeant Eliyahu Lugasi
Sergeant Eliyahu Lugasi is a Heavy Equipment Operator in Ramat David AFB. “In the case of a missile attack, or any other kind of damage to the runway, we are the first ones to arrive at the scene”, he explains the importance of his work. “We have two hours to return the runway to its original state so it is fit for landing and takeoff. We are routinely responsible for various construction and demolition missions, but we make sure to train and stay ready”. Sergeant Lugasi added that studying the equipment was a challenging experience because the smallest of actions inside the powerful machines have large results.

Independence Day: Our Outstanding Soldiers

Photography: Mor Tzidon

Sergeant Yuval
The accident in which Dr. Omri Nir and his son Ilai lost their lives while hiking in the Negev was a significant experience for Yuval, a 669 SAR Operator. “My first rescue mission as a commander was the father and son in the Tze’elim stream. It is one of the most significant rescues I have performed”, he recalls. “Usually, when a rescue mission ends, you move on. But when it reaches the news, it doesn’t only touch you, it touches the whole country”. Today he is a cadet in the Officers Academy.

“There is no other place in the military where you see a 20 year old Sergeant and a 30 year old helicopter pilot commanding a 40 year old doctor. You can find yourself arriving at a scene, joining a Battalion Aid Station and giving out orders to officers and everyone listens to you because they understand that you know what to do. A lot of people in the military just practice and usually don’t get to do what they train for. We participate in operational activity on a weekly basis”.

Independence Day: Our Outstanding Soldiers

Photography: Mor Tzidon

Sergeant Alona Kolganov
Sergeant Alona Kolganov was born in Russia, and immigrated to Israel at the age of ten. “The moment I stepped on Israeli soil – I fell in love, and when I heard that women serve in the army and can serve as combatants for the first time, I said ‘I can contribute here’”.

Once she completed an extra two year study period she drafted into the Aerial Defense Division. “I drafted into the Aerial Defense Division and truly enjoyed every moment. The job interested me because it has to do with defending Israel on a daily basis. At any given moment an aircraft can penetrate Israel’s borders and rockets can be fired from Gaza”.

Sergeant Kolganov was stationed with a battalion that operates the “Yahalom” (Patriot) System. “Two months after I arrived at the battery I began suffering from severe back pain, I began running every day and working out despite the pain, because it was important to me to keep my job and advance to a command position and become an officer. After great efforts the pain went away and I was sent to commanders’ course. I think I can contribute much more as a commander and officer. In commanders’ course I felt what it was like to be a commander and I always wanted to do more for my soldiers. I want to be there for my soldiers because I truly understand them”.

Independence Day: Our Outstanding Soldiers

Photography: Mor Tzidon

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