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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Who's a combat soldier?

It was once a fairly simple question, but the IDF has just done a full review that seeks to answer what has become a much more complex question: Who is a combat soldier?
Following the plan's approval, the Israeli army will have three new classifications: combatants, support troops, and weapons operators. The remaining positions are considered back-up functions. Combatants are defined as those who hold battlefield positions – the infantry, armored corps, engineers, pilots, naval fighters and so on.
These soldiers endanger their lives and have been trained to engage in combat and to harm the enemy in "operational contact" – that is, on the actual battlefield. Support troops are defined as those who are trained to participate in operations where their lives may be endangered and who provide administrative assistance to the combatants on the battlefield.
Some roles that fall under this category are the Ordnance Corps soldiers who fix border fences, or the technicians who are embedded with combat units. The third definition of combat weapons operator encompasses those who fight on the growing technological battleground, against cyber-attacks or in the air defense system.
Gantz addressed the issue during a conference held a week ago. "We must be careful with our definitions," he said, '... there is a new operational arena, but those who are endangering themselves are the combatants."
Past discussions saw a dispute between the air force and the personnel directorate over the classification of drone operators. The personnel directorate had suggested they be classified as holding a position that is higher than the back-up troops, but lower than support troops. The different classification holds concrete economic implications, when it comes to the compensation package soldiers receive once they complete their army service.
However, a senior officer in the air force criticized this suggestion in the past, saying it would have a major effect upon these soldiers. "People don’t need to be at the front line in order to have an influence on the battlefield," he said, arguing that drone operators have a significant impact.
The relevant issue ought not to be who has a significant impact. A blogger can have a significant impact on the way a war is depicted in the media, and therefore on its outcome,  but that doesn't make bloggers into combat soldiers.

The relevant issue ought to be the degree of danger to the soldier in the event of enemy action. The infantry, armored corps, engineers, pilots, naval fighters and so on are all in much more clear and present danger of injury and death (God forbid) than is a drone operator sitting in a control room.

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