Recent years have witnessed a gradual increase in motivation among Israel's youth to enlist in combat units, but the current August cycle of new recruits broke all records. In the current cycle, which concluded on Friday, no less than 90.26% of those assigned to combat units asked to be fighters.
However, the IDF is now concerned that the Turkel Commission hearings and the Galant affair may negatively affect motivation.
During the August 2008 enlistment cycle, just 76.8% of the new recruits ranked their desire to be a combat soldier at 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5. This year, this figure stood at 87.3%.
"There is a range of reasons for these figures," said Lt Col. Eran Shani, chief of the IDF human resources branch, responsible for recruitment processes.
"Beyond military clashes, there is an understanding among the youth and good preparation by the IDF prior to enlistment. A soldier who wants to be a combat soldier in such an unmistakable way will also successfully integrate into his second choice corps. We see this with soldiers who asked to be in the infantry, were sent to the artillery, and within days express great satisfaction."
Whitewashing medical records
Shani also noted, "It seems as though soldiers are making sure to solve any medical problem they find prior to enlistment that could make it difficult to realize their dream of serving in a combat unit, sometimes even at the price of whitewashing medical records."
In addition to the high demand for combat units, the dropout rate during the training period has become negligible, noted Shani. He also said that infantry is the most sought after assignment among the combat units.
Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi himself expressed his satisfaction with the increased motivation in recent years.
Optimism dimmed slightly over the past week following current events involving senior IDF officials. The tensions between the chief of staff and Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the Galant affair plus Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's passing off responsibility for the flotilla raid onto Defense Minister Barak in the Turkel Commission have some officials concerned that such positive figures will not be seen again as they may prompt a downward trend in youth motivation to serve in demanding combat positions.
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