Take a look inside an unusual IDF unit comprised of special people who, despite their challenges, use their unique gifts to contribute to their beloved country. 

The IDF has put substantial effort into becoming an inclusive body. It opened many of its combat units to women and invited a number of disabled individuals into IDF positions. The IDF’s 9900 intelligence unit is a great example.     

The IDF’s intelligence directorate is a multifaceted body, with various units and teams that are highly classified and specialized. One such example the Intelligence Corps’ Unit 9900: the soldiers that serve in the unique “Roim Rachok” (RR) Program – Hebrew for “seeing far beyond the horizon.” The soldiers are among the IDF’s most valued, and each and every one of them is unique – all are on the autism spectrum.

Soldiers that compose this highly classified branch are some of the most specialized in the IDF. Each is gifted with an incredible ability to analyze, interpret and understand satellite images and maps. Their work helps greatly in protecting Israel’s population, and the unit itself is unlike any other in the IDF.

The work done in the RR Program is largely in collaboration with other branches of Unit 9900, dedicated to everything related to geography, including mapping, interpretation of aerial and satellite photographs and space research. They use satellite imagery and maps to understand Israel’s geographical landscape and defend its borders.

Their job is to take visual materials from satellite images and sensors that are in the air. With the help of their officers and decoding tools, they analyze the images and find specific things they need in order to allow those who are planning a mission to get the best data of the area.

visual intel

An example of information analyzed by the unit. (IDF)

The unit members all undergo a rigorous and highly selective process to be accepted to 9900, and the RR Program is no different. The soldiers all have an incredible responsibility and utilize their outstanding skills to help gather invaluable intelligence that protects Israel’s borders.

The elite, secret group of soldiers who serve within the RR Program are indeed unlike any group in the IDF, but not only because they are all on the autism spectrum. These soldiers are all volunteers. They could have been exempt from military service in the IDF, but insisted on contributing just like their peers. They are endowed with a deep motivation and desire to serve their country and become an active part of the society they live in. The most recent group of 11 soldiers in the RR Program, like those before them, are given the choice of serving for one year or extending it, and 9 out of these 11 have decided to extend their service.

One soldier was previously not accepted into the IDF general enlistment but decided to volunteer and give back to the country. “I face challenges and I manage to hold my own [and] take on the challenges,” the soldier explained. “It’s a great opportunity to serve, like others, and to connect to the society we live in.” Another explains his reason for signing on for an extra year as a result of their reliance on his work. “They value me and they depend on me,” he said.

As a result of their incredible visual and analytical skills, they are qualified to serve alongside the soldiers of the Intelligence Corps’ Unit 9900, and thanks to their great motivation, the RR Program has proven to be a remarkable success.

One of the unit’s veterans was recentlyhonored as he lit a torch during the traditional torch-lighting ceremony on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day, which was dedicated this year to trailblazers in various sectors of Israeli society.

By: IDF Blog

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