- Unit 669
Unit 669 is an Airborne Rescue And Evacuation Unit ( _he. יחידת החילוץ והפינוי בהיטס, "Yechidat Hilu'z Vehat'zala Behethes"), which is the name of the
Israeli Air Force eliteheliborne medevacextraction unit. [cite press release |publisher = Asia Times |date=2004-12-10 |title = Israeli Air Force Special Units |url = http://forum.atimes.com/topic.asp?ARCHIVE=true&TOPIC_ID=69]
Unit 669 was founded in 1974, based on lessons learned from the 1973
Yom Kippur War, when an ad-hoc medevac unit made some 5000 extractions. Its initial mandate was to extract and provide initial medical treatment to downed (and possibly injured) pilots beyond enemy lines. However, in later years the unit also participated in extraction of soldiers of other arms of the Israeli Defense Forces, especially special forces( Sayeret) fighters in operations beyond enemy lines and seamen in distress.
The unit is composed of three flights:
*extraction, which has a company of
*evacuation, which has a company of airborne doctors, airborne paramedics/nurses. [cite press release |publisher = Jewish Virtual Library |date=2008-05-26 |title = Woman & Special Forces |url = http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/womidf.html]
*technical support group.
Due to the possibility of having to fight their way to casualties beyond enemy lines, unit soldiers are highly trained in special forces tactics, and become highly efficient ground soldiers in addition to their high level of
paramedictraining. Typically, their training lasts 18 months and are expected to sign on to an extra 16 months of service following their three-year mandatory service.
In peacetime, Unit 669 serves as civilian medevac for hikers who have gotten lost or stuck and need extraction from Israel's deserts or canyons. These civilian operations, while expensive, help train the unit fighters for their battle-time roles. There is an ongoing debate whether extracted hikers should be forced to pay at least part of the extraction cost, especially in cases of hiker negligence or improper call for extraction. However, as of 2005 no such measures have been taken.
Although not extracted by unit 669 a notable extraction is that of Ron Arad's pilot who was extracted by a random
AH-1 Cobra(combat helicopter). An unconventional extraction, to say the least, the Cobra helicopter flew to a hover just feets above the ground which allowed the downed pilot to grab and hold on to its landing skid whilst transporting him back over the border to safety.
One of the unit commanders (1978-1980), Dr.
Efraim Sneh, later became a Brigadier General, a Knessetmember and Minister (Health; Transportation; deputy Defense Minister).
Recently, an administrative error led to the first-ever female Muslim Israeli-Arab soldier joining one of the Israeli Air Force elite units - Unit 669. She had just graduated from her paramedic training course with top honors in the IDF, and was immediately placed with Unit 669. Subsequent investigation later revealed that an administrative error had been made, but due to her exceptional skills her commander was impressed with the woman's ability and achievements that he decided to allow her to stay, breaking all the rules. [cite press release |publisher = Middle East Times |date=2008-04-11 |title = First Muslim woman joins Israeli Air Force |url = http://www.metimes.com/International/2008/04/11/first_muslim_woman_joins_israeli_air_force/7528/]
Due to the sensitivity of the unit, Muslims and Arabs were prevented by IDF from joining as it fears a conflict of loyalties should Israeli-Arabs serve in Palestinian areas or fight Muslim states. But this case was clearly an exception on the grounds of the achievements and merits of the the Israeli-Arab servicewomen.
* [http://www.isayeret.com/content/units/air/669/guide.htm Israeli Special Forces & Elite Units (requires membership)]
*YouTube|5929NBzRTN8|Part 1: Blackhawks of IAF Unit 669 Airborne Combat Search And Rescue Squadron
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