Israeli-Foreign Joint Training

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Due to the IDF SF extensive combat experience, particularly with urban warfare, counter terrorism and hostage rescue, numerous SF units from friendly armed forces around the world come to Israel to joint train with or undergo training by IDF SF instructors. The fact that most Israelis can speak at basic English, makes such training even more productive and efficient.

Today, joint training involving Israeli SF units and foreign SF units is a common practice and has significant importance:

  • Allowing units to learn from each other operational experience and share tactics and gear.

  • Strengthening diplomatic ties between Israel and foreign countries, especially when involving developing countries, in which the military has a key importance in the society.

  • Public relations opportunity to Israel, which is why joint training also typically involves civilian activities, from visiting historic or archeological sites to exploring the Tel Aviv nightlife.

  • Generating profit - while some training courses are offered at cost in order to expose foreign trainees to the IDF capabilities, other custom tailored courses are offered at full price and generate considerable revenues.

  • Supporting Israel’s defense industry as the trainees can experience unique Israeli tactical gear, which is in active service by IDF SF.

As the U.S. is Israel’s most strategic ally, its Special Forces community is the IDF key partner for joint training, followed by European countries, in particular Germany. Despite the troubled past, Bundeswehr army officer cadets have often visited the IDF, and in 2009 a large scale joint training event took place in Israel between YAMAM and GSG9, including German helicopters that were flown to Israel especially for the exercise.

While most joint training is carried out discreetly, without much media involvement, one unique exception is the USMC, with many Marines openly undergo training in the IDF Counter Terror School prior to deployment in theaters throughout the Middle East.

Most IDF SF joint training is usually coordinated by the IDF Ground Forces Command International Training Branch in cooperation with the IDF Ground Forces Command Foreign Relations branch. However, in other cases, especially when involving elite SF units, personal relationships between senior ranking officers in units involved, will often trigger the joint training and will determine its nature.

Joint training can take many forms:

  • International courses - open few times per year to all friendly countries' armed forces. The international courses cover broad areas such as combat emergency medicine, EOD, military psychology, logistics and training safety.

  • Custom tailored courses – unlike international courses, these courses are designed to fit a specific foreign unit tactical needs. The training involves few selected foreign operators, an entire team or even few teams which are sent to Israel for such training. The IDF offers dozens of such tactical courses such as parachuting, counter guerrilla, counter terror, reconnaissance and sharpshooting.

  • In some cases, Israeli operators might be sent overseas to undergo general training sessions or unique courses such as sniper courses. In the past, some IDF operators were even sent to extended selection & training courses with foreign SF, such as the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). However, this is rarely done, since much of the content in these courses such as supporting indigenous guerrilla movements or operating in jungle warfare is less relevant to IDF SF. In addition, the long duration of such training is less fitted to the IDF relatively short service.

The IDF operators who will participate in the joint training vary based on the identity of the visiting unit and the nature of the joint training. Specialized foreign units usually train with their Israeli counterparts. For example, a foreign naval commando unit would likely train with Shayetet 13. Another example is the IDF Alpinistim unit that due to the low snow fall in Israel in most winters, often travels to Europe to train with other alpine units.

However, most SF joint training is centered on counter terrorism and as such its focal point is the IDF Counter Terror School. In fact, joint training in the school is so common now days that the school’s staff was even issued with English written instructors t-shirts, rather then standard Hebrew ones, which are used when training foreign operators.

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