Covering Your Tracks

The elite “Rimon” unit participates in a unique series of exercises aimed at enhancing their geological understanding and nocturnal navigation of the desert. A rare glimpse into this unit’s unique operational training

The soldiers of the elite “Rimon” unit are learning to conquer – with all five of their senses –the special desert-mountain region of Eilat. Like a shadow moving from rock to rock they are climbing the steep slopes and crossing the wadis. They understand how to hide in a narrow gorge, and how to find water in the wilderness.

The Rimon unit was canceled in 2005, but revived in 2010 because of the rise of the Global Jihad organizations in the Gaza strip and in the Sinai Peninsula. “It’s the most disturbing phenomenon”, said Gen. Aviv Kochavi, IDF chief of intelligence, in a speech at the INSS. “They are not like the moderate Salafi’s…for the first time in history, they have injected a most radical-religious ideology against the West. This may lead to a wave of attacks of uncommon cruelty on the border.”

The soldiers of the Rimon unit pass through two sets of training: their basic training and advanced training during their routine service. Their familiarity with the desert begins with an understanding of basic geology.

“They learn about the geology and the structure of the desert”, said Gilad Sadde, the unit’s survival guide. “Through geology they can understand the structure of the desert and this becomes a tool to help them navigate.”

The unit actively works to prevent infiltrations into Israeli territory, such as the hostile activities of Global Jihad. Most of the infiltrators are drug dealers or intruders, but some are terrorists. “Most of the intruders are Bedouins from the Sinai Peninsula,” explains Lt. (res.) Shiller, the training commander. “These people live in the desert and therefore know it well; our soldiers need to be like that too.”

Often the infiltrators use unique methods to cover their tracks: a blanket dragging behind them or attaching horseshoes or other iron parts to their shoes. Therefore, the soldiers also must learntechniques to detect human tracks by scouring the surface. “They learn to observe the surface and identify what is unnatural and may have been caused by humans,” said Shiller.

Seeing through the eyes of the infiltrator

The soldiers also learn to detect small cracks where terrorists could possibly hide. “We teach them to think, ‘If I were to come here as an enemy, where would I hide?’” says Lt. Col. (res.) Danny Pearl. “They have to see through the eyes of the infiltrators.”

The soldiers also learn the art of tracking and proper camouflage from a desert tracker. This helps the soldiers move and operate properly in a way so that they will not be detected. A lot of their time is dedicated to performing ambushes, in well-built camouflage stations across the the desert.

“We consider 3 things: the mission, blending into the surroundings, and the safety of the soldiers. Comfort and space are also essential,” says Sgt. Dubinsky.

Learning to love the desert

During their training sessions, the soldiers march far distances, but stay alert. The commanders frequently present the soldiers with surprises. “We will create a situation where a soldier is separated from the unit,” explains Lt. Col. Perel, “and he has to find a spot to hide from the enemy by building a camouflage point from the materials he can find.”

Furthermore the soldiers learn about astronomy (desert navigation) and desert animals. This is because the sky plays an important role in desert operations and there are several dangerous animals that the soldiers must avoid.

To fight in the desert you have to not only know it, but love it as well–that is the attitude of the unit. “We educate them to love the desert and encourage them to be curious, to ask questions and to learn new things,” says Gilad, the survival instructor. “We want to transform the soldiers into a well-trained team, and for that they must be sharp, curious, and well trained,” adds Lt. Col. Perel.

Article originally published on IDF Blog