An alarm is heard throughout Nevatim AFB. Moments later, a missile strikes one of the 116th ("Lions of the South") Squadron underground hangars, and within seconds, soldiers must quickly adjust to a new reality. Over the past few weeks, an exercise in preparation of the operational readiness review, planned for this summer, took place in the squadron
Each squadron in the IAF has its own underground hangars, where technicians prepare and maintain aircraft - for training and operation. However, what happens when a "Code Red" siren sounds and interrupts the work routine? What actions are taken? And, what happens if a missile hits the hangar? The IAF site provides you with a sneak peek into the exercise carried out over the past few weeks by the 116th ("Lions of the South"), which operates "Adir" (F-35I) aircraft.
We must carry out our missions
The exercise begins with a surprise "Code Red" siren that is heard throughout the underground hangar. "We were informed of the exercise in advance, but did not know what to expect- whether it's a missile strike or fire", described Sgt. Amit, chief of the hangar staff. "We prepared for every possible situation and started to divide roles among the staff. At the moment, the siren surprised us".
"The exercise was outlined in a way that split responsibilities among the staff- locating injuries, locating hazards, and preventing further damage", tells Sgt. Maj. Gorem, Commander of the hangar. Prior to the exercise, we prepared to the best of our ability, highlighting certain aspects that would help us succeed- minimal injuries and damage, locating personnel, and directing rescue teams. During the exercise, I was 'killed', and a relatively new team leader took my place as commander. Some soldiers cared for any injuries and went on to operate the hangar", he continued. "We cannot stop routine activity; we must continue our main role in preparing planes."
These exercises are a challenge for the hangars commander who, among other things, is responsible for dictating policy, operations, leading and caring for staff. "A hangar commander is one who gives it his all," explained Sgt. Maj. Gorem. "In emergency situations, the loads we carry are completely different. The commander must have full control and pay maximum attention. It's impossible to understand an event such as a missile strike without having experienced it. During Operation Protective Edge, I served as a hangar commander in the 119th squadron: despite having family experience the situation from home, you are at the front, and you must execute your missions".
It is impossible to predict how soldiers will react to real emergencies, so we conduct exercises to ensure that we maximize our readiness. "I believe that in reality, some people will perform accordingly, while some might go into shock and will not", Sgt. Maj. Gorem illustrated. "The purpose of practicing is first and foremost about mentally preparing everyone for scenarios like these, which I'm sure can happen. Since some soldiers live in southern Israel, their families might also be threatened by missile attacks. It can be very mentally taxing to perform and stay focused while worrying about your family back home. A certain mindset is needed, and I believe that the commander's spirit helps strengthen soldiers".
The exercise was part of our preparation for the operational inspection of the squadron. The 116th squadron that reopened as an "Adir" (F-35I) squadron in January conducts many preparation exercises, which will lead to it becoming operational. We are expected to have more exercises along with intensive workdays", explained Sgt. "These are exercises that simulate wartime and we will prepare for them accordingly- the squadron is in development stages so we train a lot: munitions exercises, surprise exercises or lengthy exercises".
"We prepare for inspection on a daily basis and are slowly increasing our pace," concluded Sgt. Maj. Gorem. "It is of utmost importance that we teach our soldiers how to act in such situations. The technical department continues to grow and flourish from day to day, in order to open our fourth underground hangar which is expected to be ready by the end of the year".