Infantry: Israeli Reservists Get Their Chops Back

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April 13, 2007: The Israeli armed forces admitted that many of their reserve units were not ready for combat last Summer, when Israel went into south Lebanon to get at Hizbollah. The last time the IDF carried out a large scale combat operation was in 1982, over two decades ago. Since then, the IDF has been engaged largely in police type stuff, mainly against the Palestinians. At the same time, reservists did not like getting called up for active duty a lot. But reservists were needed for security duties in the Palestinian territories and on the Lebanese border. So combat training for reservists was cut back in many units. This saved money, and meant less time in uniform for reservists. It was popular, and critics (who knew this made reservists less combat ready) could safely be ignored. There were some pretty vocal critics to this over the last twenty years. They were brushed aside with the observation that Israel's likely enemies were in even worse shape. This is true, but it does not change the fact that the Israeli reservists who were sent into Lebanon last month did not perform as professionally as Israeli troops did in the 1980s. This was particularly true with tank, artillery and engineer units. These units have often been used as infantry in the last decade, to assist in counter-terror operations. This meant that their primary skills, operating tanks, artillery or engineer equipment, were not kept current.

This situation was particularly acute in northern Israel, where reservists were often sent to central Israel over the last few years, to help stem the Palestinian terrorist bombers (who were particularly active from 2000-2005.) Otherwise, things were pretty quiet for the Northern Command, which watches the Lebanese and Syrian borders.

Cutbacks on reservist training are being reversed, especially for the non-infantry units. The Israelis need fewer infantry for counter-terrorism work now, because the security fence going up on the West Bank border, which has reduced the need for troops to patrol this frontier, and keep the suicide bombers from sneaking in.

Israeli reservists only get a few days of training each year, and when that is sacrificed for a counter-terrorist emergency, skills corrode. The army wants to increase this reserve training to ten days a year, but will probably only get the money for five days.

The United States has also taken many artillery, tank and engineer troops and transferred them to infantry duty in Iraq.

 


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