HAROD SPRING NATIONAL PARK, Israel — On a late December afternoon here overlooking the sun-kissed Jezreel Valley in the lower Galilee, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) inaugurated its new Oz Commando Brigade, a key force-multiplying feature of its multi-year Plan Gideon.
It was from here, according to the bible, that Gideon, the 5th judge of Israel, and his hand-picked force of 300 soldiers vanquished a 150,000-strong Midianite Army.
"Let’s learn from the past and create a new way forward, with quality, courage, persistence and innovation," Col. David Zinni, commander of the new brigade, said in inauguration ceremonies here.
Culled from four distinct elite infantry battalions, each with its own heritage and combat expertise, the new Ccommando Bbrigade is now officially part of the IDF’s heavy-lifting Division 98.
It consists of the Egoz (Almond), traditionally part of the Golani Brigade; Duvdevan (Cherry) formerly of the Paratroop Brigade; Rimon (pomegranate), the desert warfare unit formerly attached to Southern Command; and Maglan, the rocketry force attached to Division 98.
"From here was formed the first elite force in Jewish history," noted Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin, Division 98 commander. "At a time when the IDF is becoming leaner and shrinking, our mission is to be the point of the spear in the right hand of the Ground Forces."
Maj. Gen. Guy Tzur, commander of the IDF Ground Forces Command, said the new Ccommando Bbrigade aims to be much larger than the sum of its individual parts. The Plan Gideon-prescribed brigade "entrusts a good part of our qualitative edge to those units that can rapidly deliver added value in complex operations," said Tzur.
"We understood that once we optimize special forces for a spectrum of missions and give them everything they need in terms of weaponry, resources and training, we can strengthen ourselves with a certain center of gravity that was previously diffused."
In a late December interview, a general officer from the IDF's J5 planning branch said the new brigade will eventually start training together, but for now will continue to train in their respective home brigades.
"We're don't need another brigade of infantry. We need them for something different; each playing synergistically off the strengths of the other," the general said.
"The idea is to mix specialties according to the mission and to act under one command. So if Egoz needs Arabic speakers, or Rimon needs special rocketry capabilities in desert conditions, they'll know how to act as one unit."
Tzur, the ground forces commander, says the brigade should be fully operational by the second half of this year.