...Just before leaving, he bids farewell to the soldiers of the Nahal brigade, whom he has gotten to know well over this last year. "People ask me sometimes, 'How were the boys?' They are not boys. They are fighters who know exactly where they are going and they go there with an enormous sense of duty. The word 'boys' is an affront to them. They usually don't see home for three weeks at a time, so they can't hide under their mothers' apron strings. They are not spoiled. This is a group of serious men."
29 May '15..
Now completing his term as the commander of the Nahal infantry brigade, Col. Uri Gordin has a lot of criticism to share. Gordin, 45, is one of the most respected commanders in the Israel Defense Forces today. He will soon be promoted to the rank of brigadier general and take command over the 98th Paratroopers Division, also known as the Fire Formation, part of the Central Regional Command.
Gordin spent most of his military career in the elite Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit, first as a fighter, then as a platoon commander, then as a company commander, and then commander of the entire unit between 2007 and 2010. The unit flourished under his command, and that period is considered especially favorable in the unit's history. As a sign of appreciation, the chief of staff decided to promote him to the rank of colonel while he was still the unit's commander. At the end of his term, the unit received a group citation, which Gordin attributes to his team rather than his leadership.
Upon leaving Sayeret Matkal, Gordin was appointed commander of the 55th Paratroopers Reserves Brigade. Three years later, he was appointed the commander of the Nahal brigade. Next week, he will hand the Nahal brigade over to Col. Amos Hacohen.
Q: A one-year term as the commander of the Nahal brigade is considered short even in IDF terms.
"Appointments in the IDF are usually short-term. Two years is also short. In the business world, a two-year position is considered short-term, but in the military, every position is a sprint. Overall I spent four years as a brigade commander and that's perfectly fine. It would have been preferable to serve two years in the Nahal brigade, but things don't always work out. One of the most important things is to choose a course that suits the person. I think that a 45-year-old brigade commander has certain advantages, but it also has its drawbacks. When I was younger, I ran faster and I was stronger. On the other hand, today I have more experience and I'm a little calmer. You have to strike a balance between maturity and aging. I don't feel old, but it is definitely something that requires attention."
Gordin may be wrapping up only one year as the commander of the Nahal brigade, but it seems that in that one year he managed to get more done than most of his predecessors. Only three weeks after taking the position, while vacationing in Ashkelon with the other Nahal commanders, his unit was dispatched to Judea and Samaria to help search for the three teenagers who had been kidnapped while hitchhiking home from school.
"The only positive thing about being called back urgently was the fact that the entire command was called up, so I got to meet all the reserves soldiers that you don't usually get to meet in the brigades," he says.
Q: Did you think that you would soon be commanding an operation in Gaza?
"It was clear that things were heating up on that front. I think that you should always live as though it could happen. In retrospect, when I look at my notes, I can see that in my earliest briefings I told the commanders that we were to operate under the assumption that there would be war tomorrow."
Bombs in the children's nursery
Only 10 days before entering Gaza, the Nahal brigade was ordered to root out the terror tunnels dug by Hamas from Gaza into Israel.
"We realized that we had several possible courses of action, but that there was no existing, complete protocol on how to do it. So we conferred with Military Intelligence and tried to solve the problem.
"On June 30 we got the order, and on July 8 we were already operational. None of the methods that we used in Operation Protective Edge had been developed at that time. We harnessed technology and tools of detection and demolition from other realms. The thing that you learn in the brigade is that there are very few problems that don't have solutions. You simply have to find the right one. And then you realize that there isn't just one right one. The Nahal brigade destroyed four tunnels, and we didn't destroy all the tunnels in the same way."
Q: Everyone knew that there were tunnels around Gaza. Do you think the fact that they weren't destroyed sooner is evidence of a blunder?
"When something great is invented, or when you have a good idea, the question is always how you didn't think of it sooner. When I have a good idea I always think I failed because I didn't think of it sooner. However, this was still a great success. Seventeen days before we went in [to Gaza] we came to the understanding that the operational plan needs to be changed to confront this threat, which was not just a concrete threat but also a systemic one. The commander of the Gaza Division and the GOC Southern Command made the right call. Could we have thought of it sooner? Maybe."
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