Officers from the Nahal Infantry Brigade convened for a week of special training at the IDF Northern Command Base in the lead up to a five-month training period for the brigade’s soldiers. From the freshest platoon commander right up to Brigade Commander Colonel Yehuda Fuchs himself, the Nahal officers learned how to teach their soldiers to fight in shrubland, underground, with explosives and deep in urban terrain.

The nature of combat is changing. The IDF’s upper command has long understood that the tactics and techniques that it took to defeat the conventional militaries of states like Egypt and Syria in 1948, 1967 and 1973 will no longer be relevant in the next war that Israel has to fight. Terrorist organizations including Hamas and Hezbollah – which have sworn themselves to Israel’s destruction – have a proven track record of entrenching themselves inside civilian communities which they then use as human shields. They dig tunnels deep underground for smuggling weapons and infiltrating Israeli territory to strike civilian targets. Just last week a tunnel was discovered leading from Gaza into Israeli territory – the third in the past year alone.

These challenges and others have demanded fresh thinking and intensive new training for the IDF infantry who will bear the brunt of future combat against these terror groups. It is these soldiers who will advance through built-up urban areas to flush out terrorists hiding in civilian centers and who will storm tunnels and bunkers underneath the earth’s surface.

Commanders from the Nahal Infantry Brigade met at the Northern Command Base this month for a week-long training period to hone the skills that the soldiers under their commands will acquire over the brigade’s upcoming extended training period. Working with the Intelligence Directorate and the Northern Command, the brigade has developed a specialized training program which, according to deputy battalion commander Major Ido Saad, is designed to prepare the brigade’s officers for the next war that Israel could have to fight.

“What we’re training for here, is to prepare all of the brigade’s commanders – platoon commanders, company commanders, battalion commanders and the brigade commander – to train for all the challenges with which we will need to deal in the next war,” Maj. Saad explained. The principle challenges, he went on to explain, will involve moving through urban terrain and fighting underground in tunnels and bunkers – characteristics of the modern battlefield.

We’re giving the platoon commander new tools to better deal with the challenges he faces today. The picture in 2013, 2014 and further in the future is more complex, more challenging, and demands more advanced weaponry and commanders with a wider-scope of thinking.”

Going ‘Bush’: From the Outback to Northern Israel

Teaching infantry to fight and conduct sweeps through the dense shrubland characteristic of northern Israel and Southern Lebanon is an essential part of preparing for modern warfare. And the man responsible for teaching the Nahal Brigade’s platoon commanders how to do so is Major Amos Shor, commander of the brigade’s elite reconnaissance company.

Maj. Shor described the techniques of fighting in shrubland as similar to those of urban warfare. “This terrain is actually a lot like urban areas. Because the bush is very dense, it is difficult for the platoon and the company commanders to lead their soldiers,” he said. “In the best case you can see two of your soldiers. Sometimes you can only see one. How do you lead such a company if you’re advancing? If you’re attacking? Its very complicated.”

The mission of Maj. Shor’s company is to gather intelligence on the front and to perform precision operations such as raids, opening observation points and acting as a reaction force. The reconnaissance company commander explained that his unit’s position as the tip of the brigade’s spear has forced it to come to terms with fighting in rugged terrain.

“We’ve taken this subject and studied it, specialized in it, and that’s why we were given the responsibility to teach it to the other officers of the brigade,” he said.

The most important aspect in preparing soldiers to fight in shrubland is to get them accustomed to the unfamiliar surroundings.

“Soldiers don’t grow up in this terrain, its a new environment for them,” he said. “We talk to the commanders about how to make the combat soldier comfortable in this kind of environment: how to apply camouflage, and to become familiar with the psychological effects of being out in the bush. We also teach them to use explosives and various weapons specific to the terrain.”

As their officers trained, the Nahal Brigade’s infantrymen prepared to pack up and leave their posts throughout the Golan Heights where they’ve spent six months on routine security duty – mainly along the sensitive Israeli-Syrian border. Ahead lies half a year of training, during which their commanders – now thoroughly prepared – will teach them to be infantry ready for the future of war.

Date: October 31, 2013
Originally published on IDFBlog –

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