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November 12, 2021 12:09 pm
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Why I Served in Both the IDF and US Army

avatar by Jeremiah Rozman

Opinion

Then US Army General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi greet each other, July 24, 2020. Photo: IDF Twitter account.

Thursday, on Veterans Day, I felt inclined to reflect upon my privilege to have served in the armies of the world’s most important guardians of freedom — America and Israel

As a Jew, I see the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as my people’s most important defensive institution: Israel’s military ensures that Jews will “never again” be defenseless.

Israel has a global role in terms of protecting Jewry, but its military is primarily concerned with its immediate region.

Meanwhile, the United States has a global role as the leader of a broad coalition in defense of global freedom. It has an expeditionary military to match this mission. Although both militaries face common challenges, they are designed and postured for different missions.

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In 2005, I immigrated to Israel with the dream of fighting for Jewish liberation. My father risked his life to teach Hebrew and keep Judaism alive in the Soviet Union. His father fought the Nazis in the Soviet army.

I was also strongly influenced by stories of partisans and Jews who fought the Nazis and fought to secure Jewish self-determination in Eretz Israel. I see modern Israel as a direct continuation of Jewish history; a new chapter from the Biblical era. I could not pass up the opportunity to serve in what I consider to be the direct legacy of the army of King David. My three younger siblings each made aliyah and served in the IDF as well.

In 2006, Israel sent me to a military ulpan, where I spent three months in immersive study of Hebrew and Israel’s culture, history, geography, etc. In 2007, I joined the Golani infantry brigade and served all over the country. I saw combat in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

My other grandfather was a Washington, D.C., native, who served in the US Army during World War II. The US was the haven where my family built a successful and dignified life. Having served in Israel’s military, I felt the duty to serve the US as well.

After two years of working as a national security analyst, I joined the US Army and earned my commission in July 2021.

I served as an enlisted combat soldier in the IDF in my teens and early twenties. Now, in my thirties, I am a combat support officer in the US Army’s Chemical Corps. My service in each army has been rewarding in quite different ways. Nearly everyone inevitably asks me how these two armies compare.

One major difference, especially important for me, is religious life. Being Jewish in the IDF was easy. Being an observant Jew in the US Army has been more spiritually challenging. However, the US Army has always done its best to accommodate my religious needs.

While I have certainly encountered much good-natured curiosity, especially as I prayed in my Jewish religious garb after breakfast in formation on each day of basic training, I never experienced even a shred of antisemitism. Isolation from a Jewish community has been my biggest challenge thus far. Chaplains and organizations like the Aleph Institute have been extremely helpful.

The IDF and the US Army have some interesting training differences. In the IDF, non-combat basic trainees undergo brief training that can last as little as two weeks. All US Army soldiers undergo 10 weeks of basic combat training due to the US military’s expeditionary mission, which deploys support components into combat zones.

Naturally, basic training in an all-male infantry unit in the IDF was more physically demanding than the basic training that I went through for non-infantry soldiers in the US. US Army trainees have their phones locked away and do not leave post until the 10 weeks are through. In the IDF, you usually get your phone for an hour at night, go home on many weekends, and can even smoke cigarettes if so inclined.

Another major difference is how IDF infantry trainees conduct all of their training in battle-ready kit, while the US Army strictly regulates access to live ammunition. Even more shocking is that IDF soldiers, even in basic training, take their weapons home with them.

Yet another is the commissioning process: in the US, receiving a commission requires a college education; in the IDF, soldiers that prove themselves capable leaders are selected at an early point in their career to go to the IDF’s officer academy, and earn their commission without a college degree.

The US Army and the IDF have much to teach each other. The IDF excels in urban operations, counter-terrorism, linking private industries to defense needs, and military intelligence. The US has vast expeditionary combat experience, unparalleled logistics, and an NCO corps that sets the gold standard for professionalism. Both countries’ soldiers share the warrior ethos of bravery, resilience, intelligent initiative, and ethical conduct in combat.

I intend to serve as defense attaché to Israel. My deep familiarity with Israel and the IDF gives me a unique ability to enhance the working relationship between two countries that I believe are forces for good in the world. I am proud to have served both the IDF and the US Army.

Jeremiah Rozman is a publishing Adjunct at The MirYam Institute. From 2006-2009 he served as an infantryman in the IDF. He is currently a Second Lieutenant in the US Army.

The MirYam Institute is the leading international forum for Israel focused discussion, dialogue, and debate, focused on campus presentations, engagement with international legislators, and gold-standard trips to the State of Israel. Follow their work at www.MirYamInstitute.org.

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