Bedouin Israelis risk their lives in the northern IDF Tracker Unit to protect the State of Israel
The squad is ready. The company commander instructs Master Sergeant Mansur to open the cargo loaded axis. Behind the squad, the Engineering Corps forces who work in cooperation with the Infantry Corps forces are ready. In order to allow the forces to enter, Mansur and his squad must clear the field. The squad is made up of a solder in mandatory service, two soldiers in extended service and Mansur. They all share the common goal of detecting explosives, and are performing a drill together.
This squad is part of the Tracker Unit of the Galilee Division. They are responsible for opening routes at the Israeli-Lebanese border. They are the first to enter the field; they search the field for any explosives or terrorist groups who may be waiting for their arrival. Until the trackers give the order, no one is allowed to enter the premises. The unit is made up entirely of Bedouin soldiers; some are in mandatory service while others are career soldiers. The unit is currently in the midst of training, which is meant for soldiers to get familiar with new enemy tactics and to get into shape. Also, this is a great opportunity for the unit’s soldiers to meet each other before they are deployed to different parts of the border.
The squad begins to quicken its pace as it enters the field. Each of the soldiers holds a binocular and scans the area for suspicious objects. In a short time, Mansur discovers the first explosive; he orders the troops to halt and calls the Combat Engineers onto the scene with a CAT D9 armored bulldozer to neutralize the explosive. After the explosive is detonated in a controlled manner, the squad continues the scan. During this exercise, the soldiers are communicating on radios, receiving instructions and information about what is happening in the surrounding area.
“Trackers have good intuition. This intuition is the reason for their success,” says Mansur. “When we first join the army, we are taught what to look for, how explosives look. But most of our success comes from our sixth sense. We come from villages, we live there. We deal with situations that people who live in the city won’t be able to cope with. We are known for being a suspicious and curious people; this along with a strong gut feeling helps us become experts at our profession. When new soldiers come for training, they know that one of the first things that they have to do is to come to us, because no one knows the field the way we do.”
“We have no other country”
“When the IDF calls us, we answer no matter what” says Mansur. This isn’t an obvious statement considering that Bedouins are not obligated to join the IDF. The entire Scouts Unit is made up of volunteers. A fact unknown to a lot of people is that the Tracker Unit has lost more soldiers in combat, in proportion, than any other unit in the IDF.