Experienced air crew members sit in the briefing room, the atmosphere is tense. They stare at the operational order they have just received, after which they consider the specific coordinates and discuss their tactical plan. They have to succeed–this is the moment of truth.
This isn’t a very intense moment compared to the last operation the IAF took part in, but when it comes to reserve duty pilots’ training sessions and emergency situations at the Valley Squadron at Ramat David airbase, this is an important day. The tension in the air comes from the unique situation–this is a competition between the senior pilots of the squadron above the age of 35 and the younger air crew members.
The young team of the squadron is highly motivated: armed with the extensive mustaches they grew especially for the competition. “We love competitions, and let’s not forget the fact that we are pilots”, smiles Major Ofer, a pilot of the younger crew. “The coordinates are very challenging and that adds an edge to the whole thing. Nonetheless, flying against senior figures brings out the best of you. It’s very fun competing against them but even better knowing that come crunch time, they are on our side and a part of our squadron”. On the other side of the arena stand the experienced, senior air crew members. “The competition isn’t all that intimidating for us. Let the best ones win”, explains Lieutenant Colonel Itay, a senior pilot of the Valley squadron. “What mostly concerns me is my personal challenge, the difficult targets and coordinates”.
And the Winner is…
The challenges of the exercise applied to all those involved. “They obviously experienced many rapidly changing scenarios or missile batteries popping up unexpectedly”, says First Lieutenant Raz, who was responsible for the squadron’s exercise.
At the end of the busy day, the moment they had all been waiting for had arrived. The winning team was to receive a trophy with the group members’ names. “Throughout this whole day the young team was in the lead, but at the last moment, there was a turnaround”, says First Lieutenant Raz, “The veteran team won! It all changed in the last takeoff”.