Second female commander to head IDF combat unit

The Israeli army has appointed a woman officer as commander of a battalion in the artillery corps, making her only the second female to lead a combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces.

Maj. Reut, whose last name is not allowed to be published for security reasons, is slated to be promoted to lieutenant colonel and made commander of the Rochev Shamayim (Sky Rider) battalion next summer. The unit is responsible for operating Elbit Systems’ Skylark drones for various tactical intelligence and operational purposes for ground forces units.

Maj. Reut previously served as a deputy battalion commander in the Artillery Corps, and is currently on a period of study.

The Rochev Shamayim drone unit was only established as a separate unit in 2010, and is considered one of the artillery corps’ most prestigious special units. Female combat soldiers first began serving in the unit in 2014, and they must also undergo the same rigorous process in order to be accepted.

Teams from the unit are assigned to other IDF ground forces units, where they operate the drones and provide tactical support on a battalion level and provide intelligence directly to the battalion commanders of those units in the field. They were in the field with their units during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The unit received a citation from the head of the Southern Command for its operations during the 2014 war.

Two and a half years ago, Maj. Oshrat Bachar was promoted to lieutenant colonel and named as commander of the Southern Command’s combat intelligence-gathering battalion, Eitam. She was the first woman to be appointed to command a combat battalion in the IDF. She finished that posting and was recently appointed to the office of Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel, the adviser to the chief of staff on women’s affairs.

The reason for the low percentage of women in senior positions in the IDF – only about 5 percent at the ranks of colonel and higher – is because the promotion tracks usually require a combat background, said a senior officer from the IDF’s Manpower Directorate, who spoke with reporters yesterday. A senior female officer from the directorate said IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot supports the promotion of more women to senior positions.

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