42 miles in full combat gear Israeli Paratroopers prove their mettle
Amongst Israel's elite units we find the young men of the Paratroop Brigade. These young soldiers, the majority of whom volunteer for this elite unit, after finishing their basic training and advanced training, take part in a grueling, 42 mile forced march in full combat gear in order to be awarded the coveted "Red Beret" which is the mark of a paratrooper.
The march itself is a symbol, not only of their strength, but also their determination and their ability to work together as a team with each soldier looking out for those around him and doing everything he can to make sure that all of his comrades finish the march.
This year's march began in the foothills of Jerusalem at the town of Bet Shemesh and over the space of 24 hours the young soldiers, who joined the Army in August 2011, slogged their way through the hills to Jerusalem. Not only did they have to contend with the full back pack that weighs in at over 100 lbs., their weapons and having to carry simulated injured on stretchers, weather conditions were the harshest this area has seen for a long time!
Lieutenant Colonel Guy Berger, commander of the Paratroops Training Division said: "This is the culmination of their training! But it's also preparation what they will have to endure in actual combat. That's why the march is conducted in field conditions, with the boys carrying full combat gear, combat pack, weapons and ammunition - just like in the field! Discipline is strict, it's not a game! We march in silence, no songs, no noise. It's not a pleasure trip!"
Over 95% of those who started finished the trek. Despite tiredness, blisters, cuts and scratches, nobody waft's to give up and all the soldiers join together to help their friends get through this grueling and exhausting trial. Medical teams who accompany them every step of the way also do everything they can to keep the boys going and make sure that they remain fit and healthy.
The march ended at Jerusalem's Ammunition Hill where an emotional ceremony was held with the soldiers families.
The Red Beret
Ammunition Hill, Jerusalem