IDF uses innovative setting to prepare for future Hezbollah war  

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As a confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon always appears to be on the horizon, and escalation in Gaza seems ever-imminent, IDF units – both of conscripts and reserves – continue to train intensively.

Both in Lebanon and in Gaza, infantry soldiers are likely to find themselves fighting in open and in built-up areas, and to prepare for this purpose, Ground Forces Command opened an advanced training center – the “training arena” – three months ago.

These days, infantry units arrive for a one-week training session in the compound, located in central Israel.

Unlike exercise compounds such as the National Ground Forces Training Center (Mali) in Tze’elim, and other facilities where units train together – divisions, brigades, battalions, and companies – this new center is dedicated to individual training of each combat soldier.

In the compound – dubbed the “warfare gym” – soldiers focus on four main issues: urban warfare, short-range shooting ranges, first aid, and krav maga (close-up personal combat). The training day starts at 9 a.m. and runs till 8 o’clock. The compound was set up and is currently operated by Elbit Systems.

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Personal trainers – former elite units combat warriors – follow each soldier throughout the day, and at the end, they review with them what needs improving.

The different sections of the compound allow the soldiers to feel as if they are in a real combat zone, with their senses stimulated for heightened awareness and realism. For example, the first-aid section is built like a maze filled with smoke and shooting sounds, in which a soldier must keep fighting while also treating a simulated wounded soldier until he has stemmed the bleeding.

An IDF soldier is seen training at the Ground Forces Command new training center. (Photo credit: Udi Shaham)

An IDF soldier is seen training at the Ground Forces Command new training center. (Photo credit: Udi Shaham)

For this purpose, the army hired the services of a private company called Extreme Simulations, which specializes in training emergency response organizations such as MDA and United Hatzolah.

Currently, the 11th Yiftach reserve brigade is training in the compound.

Col. (res.) Yair Hirsch, the brigade’s staff commander, told The Jerusalem Post that personal training of each combat soldier affords the unit a huge advantage.

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“The soldier who comes here for a training day is treated like a pilot,” he joked, referring to the fact that everything is centered around developing each soldier’s skills.

“Our aim is that by the end of the day, the trainer will sit down with the soldier and show him his achievements: how well he did in the shooting range, how good was his position when he fired, and what should be improved.”

The 11th brigade is a commando brigade, and most of its soldiers are alumni of the Egoz reconnaissance unit.

The brigade’s battalions specialize in combat on two types of terrain: forests and urban. But while the compound focuses on the latter, it allows live-fire training indoors.

“The fact that you can actually use live fire makes a big difference,” Hirsch said. “The IDF usually doesn’t do that, and it is significant for the learning experience and the soldier’s senses.”

Hirsch also stressed the importance of the location of the compound.

“We usually train in firing ranges in the Jordan Valley or the desert, and it’s a challenge for many reservists who need to leave their day-to-day lives and families. This place is closer for them. All they need to do is show up.”

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