IDF’s Septuagenarian Reservist Never Missed a Day of Training (VIDEO)
For nearly five decades, from the Six-Day War to Protective Edge, 73-year-old IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Gideon Langman has served in the Armor Corp’s storied 8th Brigade. “I’ll continue as long as they want me, and I want to,” he told Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper.
This week, Langman missed the annual award ceremony for veteran IDF reservists, held at Tel Aviv University. But not because he was holed up at home with a newspaper and a cup of tea, like many retirees. Rather, Langman is currently out in the field, on maneuvers with his “Old Man” reserve unit of the 8th Brigade, named for its first commander, Yitzhak Sadeh.
Although he’s served as a rabbi with the unit for the last three decades, Langman doesn’t miss an exercise or social gathering, and enjoys telling young soldiers of the brigade’s pivotal role in Israel’s wars. Langman twice fought the system to keep the unit alive: The first time was about 20 years ago, when it was decided to change its designation number; the second time about ten years ago when the army tried to close it down as part of a cost-saving reorganization.
However, compelling letters by Langmen to two chiefs of staff changed the decree.
Since then he’s become an active symbol of the brigade, and still runs around like a brash young tanker. He was drafted in an emergency call up for this summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, and last week reported for regimental training in northern Israel. Langman mixes with the conscript battalion soldiers like some human Energizer bunny, but in olive green, and with a bushy white beard. He checks the condition of the tankers, helps out with advice, and – among his other duties – hands out the colorful, specially prepared pages listing candle lighting times for the upcoming week-long Chanukah holiday.
“Like the brigade, Chanukah is symbolized by the number eight,” he told soldiers as he handed out the pages. “Eight candles, eight days, eight wars of the Maccabees.”
Langman, a father of four and grandfather of 20, does 30 to 50 days of reserve duty annually. In his youth he lived in Netivot and worked as a teacher and deputy director of a yeshiva high school, and then served as director of a girls high school. Langman was a superintendent of religious education in the South, and also worked to open the first regional branch of the Magen David Adom rescue services. Then, he established the first police station and became the commander of the local Civil Guard.
Ma’ariv presented the soldier with some questions:
Q: How do soldiers relate to a 73-year-old reservist?
A: I think it only increases their motivation.
Q: How long do you think you’ll keep climbing the hills with a gun on your shoulder?
A: For as long as they want me and I want to. I really wanted to finish the reserves a few years ago, but whenever we get in a new brigade commander, he refuses to release me. I’ve served under 18 brigade commanders to this day, and I understand that one day, it’ll have to end. However, I’d like to stay until we mark 50 years since the Six Day War, in June 2017. I see as a fitting end point.
Q: The brigade won’t be sad to see you go?
A: I’ve been with the brigade for 48 years, and grew up here from the rank of private to lieutenant colonel, so there is no doubt that it’s my second home. On the other hand, I have to make way for the younger bucks and I’ll be left with a lot of satisfaction. In fact, when I am released, I won’t completely leave the army, since I’m the deputy chief of the 8th Armored society, in which I, among other endeavors, commemorate the fallen and fund raise.
Watch a video clip of Israel’s Merkava tanks and crews in action: