Riding the Dunes: IDF’s All Female Hummer Unit
You can find them out in the dunes of the Negev day or night, in all weather, training soldiers who are preparing for future combat.
The female soldiers of the Hummer Operator’s Unit of the IDF comprise a unique unit whose objective is to simulate vehicle based combat scenarios. They are the Hummer drivers, Hummers being the vehicle used in the unit. Various add-ons can be attached to the Hummer, depending on the required scenario. Using unique technology, the Hummers can simulate tanks, D-9 bulldozers or other armored vehicles. Following lessons learned in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, the unit became a central and essential component in training armored combat units. The Hummers are equipped with various recording measures, which enable the soldiers to study their moves in combat, learn their mistakes and be better prepared for impending real-life combat.
The unit is outstanding in the fact that it is a semi-combat, all-female unit. The girls train with the soldiers, driving the vehicles in combat scenarios. The candidates are required to go through a screening process and a set of tests, ensuring that only those who really want to serve in the unit will get there. When accepted into the unit they go through various courses, including a field maneuvering course and a communications course. Many of the unit’s soldiers move on to commanding positions, becoming officers. The unit has received much praise for its efficiency, high level of professionalism and the close-to-reality combat situations it offers.
First Lieutenant Hila Ravitsky, an officer in charge of advocacy for the unit, explained that lately there is a heightened awareness among young women to join more challenging units and serve in more combative positions, and there is a higher demand to join the Hummer operator’s unit. The girls who join the unit are seeking a meaningful military service, and they find it. “The position is very demanding and trialing, and yet the girls return every week for a new grueling week – it must be their sense of Zionism”. In general, she speaks about highly motivated female soldiers who have a strong sense of duty, are very serious about the job they do, are meticulous and responsible in their conduct, and execute their tasks on a high professional level.
Sgt. Nachal, 20 of Moshav Mishmeet, was a Hummer operator for a year and a half. She has recently been promoted to the unit’s recruitment representative, speaking at high schools and presenting the unit to potential recruits. She says that lately there has been more demand to join the unit as a result of the unit’s PR efforts.
The unit used to have male instructors as well, but at some point the unit moved to an all female staff. Nachal explains that the girls take their post more seriously. The boys were often involved in reckless driving. The girls are better instructors, are more professional, abide by the safety guidelines to the letter and in general are more responsible.
Nachal wanted to be posted in the unit. She thought of becoming an infantry instructor, but chose to join the Hummer operator’s unit, a unit she found more challenging. Most of the training exercises commence in the early hours of the morning, so they sleep most of the week during the day. She explains that the position is very demanding and difficult, but she speaks for all the girls in the unit when she says that they have all come to contribute their outmost, and they actualize their aspirations in the unit. “In the unit, you discover you can go beyond what you perceived were your limits. Many of the girls come from spoiled backgrounds, but learned to do the hard work, get dirty and make a real effort. In the unit I feel like I make a unique contribution, doing more then the ordinary, giving as much as I can”, Nachal says.
Nachal related to the special unit atmosphere. The girls are all very close and supportive, pushing each other ahead during difficult times, helping each other out with the hard work, a close knit group, like a family. They love their job and enjoy it.
Nachal concluded, stating that the work is hard and demanding, but the girls take on the challenge with a hands-on approach, achieving a sense of fulfillment at the end of a hard day’s work, and proud to go home at the end of the week.