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February 20, 2014 7:48 pm

IDF Intelligence Unit Using Soldiers With Autism Produces Stellar Results

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

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IDF Central Command Center. Photo: IDF.

The Israeli Defense Force achieved a series of operational successes in recent years thanks to a group of soldiers with autism who contributed their unique abilities to Intelligence Unit 9900, Israel’s Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.

The Israeli Satellite Intelligence Unit provides essential information used by the military to execute highly complicated operations. This data is gathered using satellites orbiting Earth, high above the combat arena. In addition to satellites, Unit 9900 uses manned and unmanned aircraft, and advanced sensors.

The autistic young men and women who serve in Unit 9900 can sit for hours  in front of electronic maps spotting the minutest changes, Channel 10 said. This is a rare ability that eludes most non-autistic soldiers.

Mossad chief Tamir Pardo is credited with initiating the program aimed at integrating Israel’s autistic population into the country’s military apparatus.

Soldiers who fall within the autistic spectrum must first complete a special course before joining Unit 9900, Channel 10 said. During the training, young men and women learn how to decipher maps and aerial photographs. Through the course, the soldiers also achieve greater independence as they learn to execute basic but essential tasks such as riding the bus to and from base.

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