The last of the IDF's 'Ram' tanks, or 'Patton' as originally named by its makers in the US, were decommissioned Tuesday in an emotional military ceremony at the Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum at Latrun.
The first Rams arrived in Israel in 1971, leading to the creating of Regiment 600 which was active through several major wars and operations including the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 First Lebanon War, and the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield.
Creator of Regiment 600, Colonel Tuvia Raviv, was present at the ceremony alongside representatives of 138 families, many of whom lost relatives to the Pattons during the Yom Kippur War.
The Yom Kippur War saw perhaps the tank's biggest achievements in the daring crossing of the Suez Canal which ultimately lead to an Israeli victory in the war.
Then Major General and Commander of Division 143 Ariel Sharon was responsible for the operation, but it was Colonel Raviv and his Rams that formed the bridgehead which allowed the crossing. At the time, the latest versions of the Patton in service since WWII were some of the most advanced pieces of military equipment in existence.
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The farewell to the tank and its long life of service in Israel is part of a multi-year program named 'Prowess' by Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. The plan includes the closure of Air Force squadrons, Navy missile ships, tank regiments, and artillery units all using old equipment made obsolete by IDF acquirement of more advanced weaponry.
The decommissioning of Regiment 600 leaves the Israeli Merkava tanks as the only tanks left in IDF service. Another reserve tank Regiment was also decommissioned in the ceremony which operated in the Markava Mark 1. The oldest remaining tank in reserve service will now be the Merkava Mark 2.
Many dozens of Ram tanks are currently in army storage and the Ministry of Defense plans to sell them to foreign armies or to Israeli metal dealers. Some of them will also be used in IDF firing ranges.
Hundreds of Regiment 600's reserve soldiers were present at the ceremony and 70 percent of them are expected to continue reserve service as combat soldiers in different units. Those above the age of 35 received appreciation certificates at the ceremony and exemption from further military duty.
"Some of them refused to take the exemption and demanded to continue serving as reservists," Colonel Johnny Cohen, the unit's last commander, told Ynet.
"We tried to explain to everyone that this is part of a military plan to adapt the army to the modern field of battle as well as the map of the latest threats. The most senior reservists understood less than the younger men and demanded to continue to serve in the tank corp."
The last rounds fired by Regiment 600 were fired five months ago in an exercise with reservist Paratrooper units.
"As a former commander in Merkava 4 tanks during Operation Cast Lead, I can personally attest to the ability and experience of the 'Ram' soldiers, who know how to prevent missile strikes just as good as a 'Windbreaker' system," said Colonel Cohen.
"Just two years ago, on soldier's proficiency day, in a shooting competition between tanks in the army, the soldiers in the Ram tank won first place, precisely hitting their targets."