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December 01, 2011 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-12-01

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December 1 • 2011

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Doomsday from page 47

needs more than to excel at school and
accumulate more and more knowledge.
Such soldiers need a specific mental
makeup that enables them to be isolated
for lengthy periods of time from their
natural environment, while living with
40 other people under crowded condi-
tions and an intensive, tense operational
atmosphere.
"People who cannot withstand the
pressure drop out in the screening pro-
cess and during the courses',' Oded says.
"There is only one way to minimize the
fear and improve the ability to function
during emergencies: Sisyphean training.
For that reason we constantly engage in
simulating extreme scenarios, so when
things happen in real life, the soldiers are
trained and already experienced those
things during training sessions.
"When you arrive at the sub after the
course, you feel that nobody is better
than you, but very quickly you realize that
you have much to learn from the people
around you',' Oded says."The veteran
non-commissioned officer is much more
professional than you in his area of exper-
tise. The secret of the submarine's power
is the accumulated knowledge of every-
one on board. Each soldier is an expert,
so you learn to appreciate and trust them
... You learn very quickly that the quality
of the soldiers is so high that you cannot
just issue orders."

Not Like The Movies
So what happens to a young man who
one day becomes privy to the State of
Israel's deepest secrets? "If we developed
the right person, and his ego is at a
healthy place, not much happens',' Oded
says."The heavy responsibility and sig-
nificance of the work merely increase the
need for modesty. Even though ifs quite
surprising and fascinating to discover
what this country can do, we don't tell our
parents or anyone else. Never.
"Everything stays within the subma-
rine. This is one of the reasons why the
friendships formed between the soldiers
and officers don't exist elsewhere. We
develop a culture where secrecy means
life or death."
In the movies we often see a submarine
commander receiving a mysterious mes-
sage, walking over to the safe, pulling out
an envelope and discovering a dramatic
mission for the first time. Yet when Oded
is asked whether this happens in real life,
he bursts into laughter.
"This happens in the movies. These
are precisely the things that are not done
in real life, because the sub commander
works completely independently, and at
times has no contact whatsoever with
his superiors. Hence, he must have all
the information available to him and be
familiar with the mission's big picture, so
he can make the right decisions.

Leviathan g Luxury'

At the end of the 1980s, Oded completed
a degree in electrical engineering and
physics at the Technion in Haifa. Upon
graduation, he was appointed as com-
mander of a missile boat that specializes
in anti-submarine warfare (the Navy
ensures that future sub commanders
serve on such boats first, as there is no
better way to learn how they behave when
confronting a submarine.)
After two years, Oded embarked on a
submarine commander's course — an
intensive eight-month track with a per-
sonal mentor. In 1999, he was assigned
to command the old-model submarine
"Gal." The only thing he is willing to say
about that period is: "It was a very opera-
tional year, with plenty of counter-terror
activity!' In 2001, he was appointed as the
second commander of Leviathan, a new
model Dolphin sub.
When asked how it feels to command
Leviathan, a submarine that is three
times larger than the previous sub he led,
Oded first speaks about the improved
shower experience. "When you are sail-
ing for weeks and your only way to take
a shower is to use the air-conditioner's
water, yet suddenly you have a shower,
only then you understand the meaning of
this," he says.
"Suddenly, there is a convenient space
for service, in submarine terms of course.
Suddenly, your sub has more than one
floor. There are also more arms and more
advanced sonar systems. There is also a
leap in atomization and in command and
control capabilities. Its like flying into
space. Moreover, it's a very quiet subma-
rine that can perform its mission with
greater secrecy"

Doubling The Fleet
At this time, the Navy is preparing to
double Israel's submarine fleet from three
to six in the next five years, making it one
of the region's largest and most advanced
fleets.As result of this process, Oded was
not only required to double the subma-
rine fleet's manpower, but also to create a
larger cadre of career officers for a lengthy
service term, as the need for professional
expertise will only be growing.
Hence, the Navy realized it must offer
these soldiers the army's best service
terms. For example, sub troops can study
almost anything they want, as long as
they stay in the force. Notably, a sub offi-
cer is required to serve nine years at least.
Oded says that doubling the fleet's size
is "not only a challenge for the army; it's
a challenge for the state." When asked
whether Israel needs such a large fleet,
especially in an era of cutbacks, Oded has
no hesitation: "I have no doubt we need
it. A large submarine fleet gives us much
more than a multiplier effect in strategic
and security terms." [ I

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