"We sleep near giant puddles, water seeps into the tents and damages our combat gear and private belongings," says an Iron Dome operator on the dire living conditions soldiers manning the missile defense system are forced to face.
- Iron Dome featured at Aero India
"We are considered combat soldiers, but show me soldiers in Golani or in the Armored Corps who are subjected to the same conditions. Soldiers can't sleep, work around the clock and stay vigilant," the operator said.
The Iron Dome's impressive success in November's IDF offensive in Gaza boosted motivation to serve in the missile defense system, with 150% increase in the number of soldiers wishing to join the unit since November 2012.
But it seems that behind the glamourous image lurks a harsh day-to-day reality.
Iron Dome's operatives' tent (Archived photo)
Contrary to other combat soldiers, Iron Dome operatives have no home base. They travel with the battery wherever it is deployed and are forced to make do with portable toilets, makeshift showers and tents.
They have no kitchens and they feed on pre-cooked meals.
Iron Dome system in operation (Photo: AFP)
"We serve for three years with portable toilets, no kitchen, no sewage system, in the freezing cold in winter and with no air-conditioning in summer. We're no crybabies, but these are unreasonable conditions," a soldier said.
One soldier noted that sometimes the toilets get blown away by intense winds and that food delivery is often delayed. "How hard or expensive can it be to find a solution for us?" he wondered.
Iron Dome exhibition in India (Photo: EPA)
Left with little choice, the soldiers try to find ways of making the service more bearable. For instance, one soldier's mother, who works at a large public institute, organized warm food delivery. A different private firm "adopted" the operatives in its area and sends them warm meals every day.
The IAF is aware of the soldiers' predicament, and last week the Air Force commander held a discussion in which options to improve the soldiers' living conditions were considered.
According to a high-ranking official, measures will soon be taken so soldiers will be able to warm their own food, sewage pumps will be supplied and better showers installed.
Yossi Yehoshua contributed to this report
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