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Nahal Brigade Insignia
|Part of||162nd Division ("Steel Formation"), Central Command|
|Motto||"The Human Advantage"|
|Colors||Light green beret ("glow stick green"), Green & White Flag|
|March||"Ha-Nachal Kan" ("The Nahal is here")|
|Colonel Yehuda Fuchs|
The Nahal Infantry Brigade is one of the Israel Defense Forces main infantry brigades. It was established in 1982 in response to the growing need for infantry manpower in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War. It is formed mainly from regular draftees as well as from a core of soldiers from the Nahal group, part of the Nahal movement, which combines social volunteerism, agriculture (historically the establishment of kibbutz farming communities) and military service. Many Mahal foreign volunteers are also known to serve in the Nahal Brigade, providing a highly motivated and disciplined core of soldiers for the brigade.
Nahal Brigade soldiers are distinguished by their light green berets, which earned them the nickname "sticklights" (Hebrew for glowsticks). The brigade is composed of 4 active-duty battalions – 50, 931, 932, and 934 (the Gadsa"r, Hebrew for reconnaissance battalion) – and the various companies on its training base, which together comprise Battalion 933.
It operates on a rotational basis on the most volatile Israeli borders (Lebanon, Syria and Gaza) as well as in the West Bank territories. It is tasked with regular patrol and observation operations on the borders, counter-terrorist operations and riot control in the West Bank as well as tactical assault support to police operations in the territories.
It has operated in all major wars and large-scale operations since its inception, playing key roles during the First and Second Lebanon War and the First and Second Intifada.
Nahal Infantry Brigade soldiers undertake around four months of basic training and around four months of advanced training in the Israeli desert.
Basic training: consists primarily of physical conditioning, Krav Maga, rifle training and the qualifying obstacle course. Recruits begin their desert marches at this point in order to prepare them for their beret march at the end of advanced training (70+ kilometers, depending on company). These marches are performed fully kitted in order to prepare them for battlefield marching. Rifle training aims to perfect recruits' day and night shooting skills prior to advanced training. Recruits will also undergo two-man team live firing exercises in the field. Weapon understanding and maintenance is also an important element of basic rifle training. Recruits are taught army values and weapon safety and responsibility. Recruits are also introduced to long field exercises in the desert. There they will learn to survive for the first time on combat rations, limited water, extreme desert heat, sleep deprivation, and field injuries all while being subjected to intense physical activity. Camouflage, fortification construction, combat first aid, and stealth maneuvering will also be taught at this stage.
Advanced training: recruits undergo specialist combat training. This part of the training will primarily take part out in the field. By this stage recruits are expected to comfortably cope with speed-marching in full kit, distances ranging from 15 to 30 kilometers during field exercises. By the end of their training recruits will have been required to march over 400 kilometers through desert and mountainous terrain. Recruits will also be expected to be fully proficient with their rifles, both maintenance and shooting. Recruits displaying certain aptitudes will be sent on various specialist courses: sharpshooter training, squad automatic gunner training, tactical MATADOR-missile training, radio operator’s course, advanced camouflage and fortifications course, combat paramedic course, APC driver’s course, and tunnel and close-quarter training course. Training with helicopters will also be introduced at this stage, although this can vary from draft to draft. All recruits will learn how to conduct live-fire drills at a squad, platoon, and company level. Recruits will learn how to operate both on open field battlefields (desert and mountain) as well as in urban terrain. Room and building clearing training will take place during this stage of training. Recruits will also take part in more advanced Krav Maga training and introduced to crowd-control methods (tear gas, non-lethal ammunition, physical restraint techniques).
At the end of advanced training recruits will qualify as IDF “lochamim” (“warriors”) after they complete:
1. War Week: An intense one-week-long war simulation in the field. Recruits will be on combat alert during the whole exercise requiring them to be in full kit, at all times, throughout the week. They will be purposely subjected to extreme sleep deprivation, very limited food rations, and physical exhaustion in order to prepare them for the extreme conditions of war. Recruits will also be required to put into practice their training against heat strokes and hypothermia. Desert temperatures will fluctuate dramatically from day to night. During this time recruits will be expected to cope with intense marches carrying regular kit and support weaponry. Recruits will carry out numerous intense live-firing exercises at a company level, including fire support from the tank and artillery divisions where available. After War Week recruits will earn the Nahal warrior ("lochem") insignia, qualifying them as IDF combat-ready soldiers.
1. Beret March: A 70+ kilometer (depending on company) night march through the desert’s mountains. This is performed fully kitted and at full tactical march speed, usually ending at Masada. After this recruits earn their green beret at a ceremony at the Nahal Memorial.
As of 2013 Nahal pioneered a new form of very advanced training aimed at their qualified combat personnel. After advanced training soldiers undergo a further stage of specialist training, combined with border guarding. During this time soldiers will undergo advanced urban warfare training, advanced navigation training, open field and mountain fighting training, Krav Maga, and brigade-wide live fire exercises with support from the artillery, tank, special forces, and air force brigades.
Specific soldiers will be sent on specialist courses including: driver’s course, riot dispersal and non-lethal ammunition training, tactical shooting course, and sniper school.
Battalions 931 and 932 are composed entirely of soldiers who draft through the Bakum.
The 50th Battalion has a unique makeup. Two thirds of its companies are made up of bnei gar'inim, groups that spend a year running programs in lower socio-economic communities before being drafted to the army. Following that year, they go through infantry training, taking around 8 months, and then serve in the same manner as other infantry units for about a year. This period is followed by around half a year of community service, at the end of which their term of service closes with another 4–6 months as infantrymen. The other third of the 50th battalion is composed of bakumistim, or soldiers who draft regularly to the unit through the Bakum.
Prior to 2006, it was the case both groups of prospective 50th battalion soldiers were required to pass a two-day gibbush (selection phase) before being drafted in order to get into the 50th Battalion and also that part of the battalion's training comprised a paratrooper course after advanced infantry training (hence Nahal Mutznaḥ, or Airborne Nahal, the name of the battalion before being transferred to the Nahal brigade). Since 2006, however, both the gibbush and the paratrooper course were dropped and the 50th became a regular infantry battalion. In 2010 Nahal soldiers from the 50th Battalion produced IDF Tick Tock, a viral video of themselves dancing as a flash mob in the streets of Hebron.
The fourth active-duty Nahal battalion, the Gadsa"r (Reconnaissance battalion), was created in the early 1990s to serve as a special forces detachment for the brigade. Soldiers wishing to serve in this elite battalion must pass a five-day gibbush, a physically and mentally grueling test similar to "hell week" (approximately 1 in 4 finish the week and 1 in 8 are accepted to the training program), after which they are dispersed into specialized training programs for each of the three companies that make up the battalion: the Palsa"r (Reconnaissance Company), the Palna"t (Anti-Tank Company, commonly known as the Orev company), and the Palha"n (Engineering and Explosives Company). Soldiers in this battalion undergo an additional 8 months of training in krav maga, urban combat, navigation, camouflage, parachuting and other specialized courses. During periods of low intensity conflict, the companies are tasked with capturing enemies of the state and serve as counter-terrorism forces, raiding terrorist homes and hideouts. Gadsa"r Nahal won the IDF Chief of Staff prize in 2010 for best land combat unit.
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