Israel Table of Contents
Israel Defense Forces members training in amphibious
Courtesy Embassy of Israel, Washington
Soldier operating antiaircraft gun
Courtesy Israel Defense Forces
Upon induction at the age of eighteen, conscripts were assigned to one of three types of basic training: generalized, for women and for men with some physical limitation; corps, for conscripts assigned to noninfantry units, such as armor or artillery; and brigade, for all infantry recruits. Generalized basic training, which was an orientation program including the use of basic military weapons, lasted one month. Corps training lasted from three to four months, encompassing infantry-type training and indoctrination into the recruits' assigned corps. It was followed by advanced training of a more specialized nature, after which trainees were assigned to their permanent corps units. Brigade basic training, the most arduous, lasted from four to five months. It was conducted at training bases of the individual infantry and airborne brigades and, upon completion, the company created at the beginning of basic training remained together as a company in the brigade.
Basic training was an extremely strenuous indoctrination into the IDF, involving forced marches, bivouacs, night exercises, and obstacle courses, focused on operations at the squad and platoon level. It also stressed strengthening the recruits' knowledge of the country's origins and traditions, and identification with national ideals and goals. Visits were made to kibbutzim, moshavim (sing., moshav--see Glossary), and places venerated in Jewish or IDF history. Basic training also served as a melting pot, bringing together different ethnic groups and individuals from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. The IDF played an especially important role in the education and assimilation of new immigrants.
After about five months of service with their field units, all soldiers were evaluated for their leadership potential. About half qualified for further training as squad leaders, tank commanders, and other types of noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Those selected were assigned to a junior command course of three to four months. Considered exceptionally demanding, the course was conducted mostly in the field, where the students acted in rotating command roles in daytime and nighttime exercises. Those successfully completing the course either returned to their original units as junior NCOs for a further six to ten months or were assigned as basic training instructors. During this phase, they were further evaluated for their potential as officers. This evaluation included ratings by their fellow soldiers, recommendations by commanders, and screenings by military psychologists. Those who were not selected or who rejected officer training (often because they were reluctant to serve the necessary additional year), remained as NCOs until they had completed their three-year tour of active service.
All officer candidates were selected from among conscripts who had distinguished themselves in their initial period of service; Israel had no military academy as a source of officers. Three secondary schools stressed military training, however, and assigned students to military camps during summer vacations. Graduates of these high schools were given the rank of corporal on enlistment and most went on to become officers. After junior officers completed their obligatory service, they either shifted to reserve officer status or signed contracts (renewable every three to five years) as career soldiers within the standing ranks of the IDF. A wide variety of Jewish social and economic backgrounds were represented in the officer corps, although sabras (see Glossary), Ashkenazim (see Glossary), and members of kibbutzim and moshavim were represented well beyond their respective percentages in the society as a whole.
The IDF course for officer candidates was conducted at a single base but was divided into three types: the six-month infantry course for infantry and paratroop units; the two-month combat arms course for officers in armor, artillery, engineering, and air defense; and the two-month basic officer course for all candidates for the support services. The latter two courses were each followed by specialized three-month courses given by the corps to which the officer was assigned. Those who completed the course (the failure rate was as high as 50 percent) returned to their units commissioned as second lieutenants to be assigned as platoon commanders. Such officers generally served for two further years of active duty, followed by many years of reserve officer status.
About 10 percent of junior officers joined the permanent service corps after their national service, signing up for an initial period of two to three years. They usually were assigned as company commanders, sometimes after filling a staff or training position. Some of the young officers attended the company commanders' course run by their corps, although the bulk of those officers in the course tended to be reservists. Those men opting for longer careers in the military were later assigned to the Command and Staff School, a year-long course designed primarily for majors as a prerequisite to promotion to lieutenant colonel. A small number of brigadier generals and promotable colonels, along with senior civilian officials, attended a one-year course at the National Defense College dealing with military, strategic, and management subjects. A few senior IDF officers attended staff colleges abroad, mainly in Britain, France, and the United States.
Promotions for regular officers were rapid. Company commanders were generally about twenty-five years of age, battalion commanders thirty, and brigade commanders thirty-five to forty. Retirement was obligatory at age fifty-five, although most officers left the service between forty and forty-five years of age, in accordance with a "two career" policy that encouraged and assisted officers to move into responsible civilian jobs.
Data as of December 1988
Israel Table of Contents