All IDF (Zahal) combat soldiers started out as new recruits – none of them woke up one morning a fully trained and skilled warrior. 18-year-old combat recruits must go through a months-to-year-long. During this process, the soldiers perfect their physical and mental skills in order to transform into IDF (Zahal) combat soldiers.

The transformation starts at the induction center, where the new recruits receive their uniforms, interview with officials, complete forms, and go from station to station to prepare for the journey ahead. From there, they travel directly to their brigade training base, where they’ll spend the next months.

There, they begin basic training, which turns civilians into soldiers. In basic training, they learn the values and fundamentals of combat soldiers, including routine and military discipline, physical training, field weeks, weapons training, shooting, and the principles of the IDF (Zahal). Basic training lasts approximately four months and ends with a final march.

At the end of the march, the soldiers have a swearing-in ceremony, in which they officially join the ranks of the IDF (Zahal).

From civilian to soldier: The combat training process

The end of the ceremony symbolizes the beginning of their advanced training. Each soldier is assigned a role in the brigade, and after four months to a year of training (depending on the demands of the unit), is able to begin operational duty.

During advanced training, soldiers learn how to work together as a team, starting as the smallest group, the squad, and ending with the whole company. They put emphasis on fitness, readiness, and the proper care of military equipment. At this point, they also deepen their knowledge of different combat techniques and specializations.

For example, the Combat Engineering Corps trains to handle obstacles such as minefields, tunnels, and dirt mounds. At the same time, the Combat Intelligence Corps specializes in gathering information and recognizing threats on the ground. The Search and Rescue Unit also has specialized training, which includes the execution of special missions during earthquakes, tsunamis, and conventional or unconventional terrorist attacks.

The final and biggest step in becoming an IDF (Zahal) combat soldier is the “Masa Cumta” – the beret march. The soldiers march overnight, carrying their weapon, vest (with six magazines and two canteens), and stretchers. After marching between 20 to 45 miles (some units, like special forces, march longer than others), the soldiers receive their unit’s beret in a moving ceremony attended by their families.

From civilian to soldier: The combat training process

Now they’re officially IDF (Zahal) combat soldiers!