group of 120 men and women of the U.S. National Guard arrived in Israel for a
joint exercise (“United Front”) with 150 men and women of the Israel Defense
Forces on Tuesday. Together, these soldiers were not preparing an attack or
getting ready for a top-secret operation; they were conducting one more exercise
designed to learn from each other and prepare for humanitarian missions here and
around the world.
The exercise was based around the
scenario of a massive earthquake bringing down numerous buildings with multiple
people trapped under the rubble – some wounded and some dead. All the different
units and personnel who might be involved in a real emergency situation were
called together. The National Guard soldiers and the IDF soldiers practiced
entering into the destroyed buildings and searching for survivors using
technology and specially trained dogs from the IDF’s K-9 unit. Ambulances were
called to the scene as was a ZAKA rescue team to assist in the recovery of
This exercise comes on the heels of a visit
from Israel’s Home Front Command to Chicago in March. The Israeli delegation
toured training facilities of the Illinois National Guard and laid out plans for
future collaboration between the two forces. That evening, they and other local
security agency professionals were hosted for dinner at JUF
The IDF has battle-tested experience in search
and rescue operations. The Home Front Command has developed doctrines and
tactics to handle these kinds of events, whether natural or man-made. The IDF
is now keen to share these best practices with its American allies who, in
turn, brought with them their own skillsets and expertise, which the IDF
soldiers were eager to learn.
Also present at the exercise
were three U.S. generals as well as Chicago’s own Colonel Alicia Tate-Nadeau,
the liaison officer for the U.S. National Guard, based in Israel. From the
Israeli side, the host of the exercise was Major General Eyal Eizenberg,
Commander of the Home Front Command. U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro also visited
the training site and met the soldiers.
The U.S. and Israel
are constantly deepening the level of their military cooperation, which is at an
unprecedented level. Today, they are working together in order to save lives and
assist the needy after natural disasters and mass casualty events.
Ofer Bavly is the director of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's Israel office.