Soldiers from most elite army units spend two weeks training to prepare commandos for the possibility of being captured and imprisoned
Israeli soldiers who fall into the hands of enemies can undoubtedly expect to have a very bad time during their captivity. Intimidation, humiliation and torture are likely scenarios in captivity.
These are also things that they can experience from their own army, as part of a top secret training program of the Israeli army that aims to prepare its elite commandos for the possibility of to be captured or imprisoned.
Details on the program were revealed Friday by Hadashot who spoke with several soldiers who had undergone these difficult tests.
The two-week training takes place at the end of the training programs for some of the elite military units: the Navy Commandos, Sayeret Matkal (Army Reconnaissance Unit) and Shaldag ( elite commando unit of the air force). Pilots also undergo this training.
The soldiers are held in conditions similar to those of a prison, they undergo intense interrogations, threats and real violence from their instructors. Soldiers described a stressful experience in which they often thought their instructors had totally lost control.
In preparation for the program, soldiers watch informational films and are told that they must expect difficult days ahead. They also meet people who have experienced captivity.
The next step is the "kidnapping" of young soldiers that usually takes place at night, said Z, a former soldier, on the TV channel. The objective is to shock the soldiers from the beginning. Soldiers who have experienced the program speak of physically and emotionally intense experiences, during which they are interrogated, slapped, whipped and subjected to degrading activities.
"I started crying, but it did not help me," said a soldier at Hadashot. When I angered them, they pushed me against a wall and whipped my back. If you show them it hurts, they hit you harder. At one point, we understand that we should close it.
The instructors have tried to obtain information that soldiers know they should not disclose.
"An interrogator stood in front of me and said to me, 'I know who you are. I know what you are preparing. Your friends have already told me everything, said a former soldier. They tied my hands on a table. One interrogator held me while the other was whipping my feet.
The instructors broadcast to the soldiers Arabic music and forced them to dance until they fell.
"There were times when I started crying and said," Enough! Stop! I can not take it anymore, a soldier recalled. My legs can not stand, I can not dance anymore. I do not think I have experienced anything so hard in my life. "
To ensure that the experience is not too traumatic, a psychologist accompanies the sodlates throughout the program.
"Training to be a prisoner prepares the soldier for the possibility of failure," said Lt. Col. Yotam Dagan, a former army psychologist. It's a totally different challenge compared to why the soldier is trained until then. " The soldier, he said, must face a situation "where the cards are not in his favor, in which he must survive, function and more than anything, go home alive."
Dagan said that while the soldiers may sometimes feel that the simulation is degenerating, this is also part of the goal of the program.
"Sometimes there are situations that are perceived as a loss of control [by the instructors]. It's done on purpose to make it difficult enough to make it a real challenge, "he said.
"At the end of the program, the soldier should feel that he has learned something about how to handle such a situation. If that does not happen, he will feel he must never be captured. "
At the end of the program, some of the soldiers start crying, so relieved to know that it's over.
"Nobody knows what's going on, and then we hear the plastic ties that are cut off from your hands and we hear that the commander of the unit has arrived," said one of the soldiers.
If they are happy to know it's over, the soldiers understand that the next time they find themselves in such a situation, it will most likely be outside Israel's borders. Yet, having undergone rigorous training, they will be all the more prepared for such a scenario.