‘Great in Uniform’ is a unique project that allows young men and women with special needs to volunteer for service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Click below to see the ‘Great in Uniform’ video of IDF soldiers with special needs contributing to the Jewish State!
Raising a child who has special needs is never easy. Anywhere. However, being a young Israeli with special needs is especially difficult since painful feelings of inadequacy would be heightened when a child reaches the age of 18. It is then that a young Israeli man or woman is confronted with a harsh reality: he or she will not be able to serve in the IDF.
However, this cruel twist of fate is being challenged by IDF Reserve Major Colonel Ariel Almog, with his ‘Great in Uniform’ project. The purpose of this initiative is to incorporate IDF soldiers with special needs by integrating young people with disabilities into the army for a three-year stint, with the ultimate aim of preparing them for an independent life in Israeli society.
‘Great in Uniform’ allows young men and women who felt like failures in special education schools to join the IDF, to contribute and give of themselves – just like everyone else.
According to Rechav’am base Commander Motti Dayan, the IDF special needs soldiers are “a part of us. They are an inseparable part of our unit. They eat with us in the mess hall, work with us on everything.”
Along the way, the rest of the soldiers on base get to know, accept, appreciate and love the special members of the ‘Great in Uniform’ squad.
Every morning, IDF special needs soldiers are bused to the base, where they execute daily tasks that include repairing protective kits and working in the military storehouses and kitchens.
Boot Camp for IDF Soldiers with Special Needs
The ‘Great in Uniform’ project kicks off with a week-long army boot camp. For some of the participants, this basic training marks the first time they have ever been away from home.
During boot camp, IDF special needs soldiers learn about the values of the Israel Defense Forces, tour Israel and get to know the country.
Just like most other members of the Israeli army, the IDF special needs soldiers end their basic training by going on a trek and then receiving their own berets.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently said that ‘Great in Uniform’ is “a worthy cause, socially, educationally as well as in terms of national security.”
And while the ‘Great in Uniform’ project starts in the IDF, it doesn’t end there, since it has proven to lead to better integration in society, the community and the workforce.
‘Great in Uniform’ is just one example of how the IDF is putting the unique and largely untapped talents of Israelis with special needs to good use. The Israel Defense Forces achieved a series of operational successes in recent years thanks to a group of soldiers with autism who contributed their unique abilities to Intelligence Unit 9900.
Capabilities Unique to Special Needs IDF Soldiers are Important Assets
The Israeli Satellite Intelligence Unit provides essential information used by the military to execute highly complicated operations. This data is gathered using satellites orbiting Earth, high above the combat arena. In addition to satellites, Unit 9900 uses manned and unmanned aircraft and advanced sensors.
The autistic young men and women who serve in Unit 9900 can sit for hours in front of electronic maps spotting the minutest changes, Channel 10 said. This is a rare ability that eludes most non-autistic soldiers.
Mossad chief Tamir Pardo is credited with initiating the program aimed at integrating Israel’s autistic population into the country’s military apparatus.
Author: Gidon Ben-Zvi, Staff Writer, United with Israel