Some 76% of new army recruits with combat qualifications want to serve in field units according to Ground Forces data collected ahead of the March round of enlistment to commence next week.
IDF elements are pleased with the record number but admit that the situation causes a problem in manning non-combat positions. "We are starting to look for solutions in order to find the right balance in manpower assignment," a senior Ground Forces officer said.
The March enlistment round will commence on Sunday in the military induction center. The IDF has spent recent weeks processing the new recruits' placement requests which indicate a rise in motivation to serve in field units.
"One can detect a clear line between the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead which points to the change the IDF has undergone resulting in many teens' strong will to be combatants," the senior officer noted.
"Another reason for high motivation rates is the strengthening of the connection with the young recruits from the time they are in the 11th grade," the officer said. "The army is there, providing them with information, inviting them to the bases, opening its gates in order to boost their confidence level and equip them with the most updated information."
IDF soldiers at the end of Operation Cast Lead (Photo: Reuters)
Looking for solutions
The IDF is now focused on encouraging enlistment, mainly for the armored corps, artillery corps and combat engineering units after demand for infantry service far exceeded the army's needs.
Last March, as Operation Cast Lead was drawing to an end, demand for service in field units reached 73% out of all recruits. "This trend of real gravitation towards the combat units is felt in the ground and reflects on the drop-out rate which has substantially decreased during the training period," the senior officer said.
The officer also estimated that the trend is expected to grow in the future while the IDF continues to search for ways to address the combat-support shortage. "We are certainly exploring the options in light of the fact that it's hard to fill the non-combat positions."
One of the suggestions raised was to place career officers in the non-combat professions and train some of the combatants to perform other duties such as cooking.