They are only eight reservists, with a rich background in security, with one goal in mind: to train the IDF’s bases in Israel to defend against attempts to infiltrate them • Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Miky Weinberg, the team commander and one of its founders: “Our goal is to train the soldiers, from the gate guard to the base commander for an extreme event. ”
The operators raided at dawn, quietly approaching the military base quietly, silently, they quickly set up a ladder and within a moment they were inside. Now almost nothing can stop them from harming soldiers, gathering critical intelligence, or stealing sophisticated weapons. Luckily, this time it was the Red Team’s operators, a special unit whose entire purpose is to examine whether it is possible to infiltrate an IDF military base. Next time, the infiltrators may be enemy forces.
A few weeks ago, the Red Team operators carried out a large-scale exercise at an IDF base in the north. Although this is an exercise that is carried out throughout the State of Israel, the context cannot be ignored – in a future conflict, Hezbollah plans to occupy settlements so that taking over a military base can be a great achievement for it. In addition, attempts have been made in the past to infiltrate bases in the past in this region.
The Red Team is unique and special in the IDF. There are only about eight reservists, veterans of special forces, and combat units with a background in security. including those who held senior positions in the Close Protection Unit and the Operations Unit in the Israel Security Agency. The goal is one – to teach and train the various bases in Israel to protect themselves in the best way possible. In recent years, the team has been responsible for the security of the soldiers and a variety of bases in the IDF, which are dispersed throughout the State of Israel.
To infiltrate the bases, the Red Team uses methods of forgery, fraudulent manipulation, physical intrusion, and tactical combat – all in full coordination with the bases’ commanders. This is especially critical these days, against the background of the burglary of a Bedouin car thief into a base in southern Israel at the beginning of the year, along with attempts to steal ammunition from many bases. The IDF understands the problem and therefore sets up the base defense system, to dramatically improve the bases through infrastructure and advanced means, protection of bunkers and weapons, extensive investment in technologies, and hundreds of audits of the bases.
The idea to set up the company was fleshed out about a decade ago by three people including Lt. Col. (Res.) Miky Weinberg, who serves as the company commander. The three veteran security and professionals realized that they could, as reservists, contribute to the IDF in the field of base defense, as they do in civilian life. Weinberg served for about 20 years as a close protection specialist for several prime ministers (Shamir, Rabin, Peres, and Netanyahu) and currently, he owns a private security company. As a result, he has vast experience in this field.
“In the past, we would come, do an exercise, leave lessons learned and move on,” Weinberg explains.
‘’In the past two years, we work under the IDF’s operational department, which allows us to provide a package of products to the base. We know how to take a base, identify the gaps and build a real plan that can be spread over half a year. We examine the entire field of combat, from the attacker’s viewpoint, accompanying the base from the base commander, through the defense officer to the last of the soldiers. At the end also comes the assault exercise, which is the icing on the cake. Our goal is to improve every base we visit.
“Our ability is a boutique ability. We do not audit a base, but come to it and bring it to a much better place. We do not come to audit but to improve, to build a response for each unit. The understanding in the IDF is that an event could happen again, in some way or another, and our goal is to train the soldiers – from the gate guard to the base commander – for an extreme event”.
“It’s not showmanship’’
The head of the security division in the operations division explains that the ability provided by the Red Team is critical and that its goal is to complete the range of operations the IDF has carried out at bases in recent years. “We are conducting a very significant campaign to improve the security of the IDF bases, and the team is providing the units with tools in preparation for the defense of the base,” he says.
“They come to the unit, accompany it for weeks and prepare it for an exercise to raise the level of security. Afterward, they perform the exercise which involves the use of various means – including dummy weapons, smoke grenades, and more – to show soldiers how such a scenario would be carried out. Sometimes we use editorial effects to reflect the nature of the exercise, in the video we provide them. They must understand the threat. It is not a matter of showmanship but of giving them the tools in the most authentic way possible.
“The team reaches all units in the IDF, including classified units. All IDF entities are trained by us, with of course more strategic and meaningful bases receiving visits more frequently. I have been in the security field since 2005, and I do not remember an investment like there has been in recent times in securing bases. We are in a much safer place than we were.
“We are constantly on the pulse, to make sure there is no need to align one line or another. Our job is to be vigilant all the time, with the hand on the pulse, and to see that we do not fall asleep on guard – literally. We understand the threats, deal with them and examine them. “All the time. Our job is to make sure that people are prepared for such an incident”.
“A man of closing circles”
One of the operators in the unit is Sergeant Major Yair Oanunu, who serves as a team mentor in addition to his expertise in the field of the opposing forces’ mindset and as a security consultant. He came to the security world through tragic circumstances. As an ultra-Orthodox youth who grew up in Jerusalem during the years of the second intifada, he experienced firsthand two serious suicide bombings that led him to the understanding that he must prevent such incidents.
At the end of his military service, he began working as a security guard on buses in Jerusalem, during a particularly threatening period in which they were a target for suicide bombers. After that, he worked in the world of security engineering, at Ben Gurion Airport’s covert security array, close protection, and so on.
“The idea of the Red Team is to bring the attacker’s viewpoint and how to defend against it. I educate the base’s personnel on how to act against an attacker. I am a person of closing circles, perhaps because of past traumas, and I want to make the necessary corrections. We discovered that the IDF has points that need to be improved in the field of base defense, and now we have the opportunity to correct them. That is our job”.