Best Defense

Thoughts provoked by seeing a photo of an Israeli general working with his troops

By Jeff Williams Best Defense bureau of general officer behaviors Sometime in the last year in either Haaretz or the Jerusalem Post — I forget which — I found an article about Gen. Benny Gantz the current Chief of Staff of the IDF. Apparently, it is Gantz’s custom to take a few days and join ...

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By Jeff Williams

Best Defense bureau of general officer behaviors

Sometime in the last year in either Haaretz or the Jerusalem Post — I forget which — I found an article about Gen. Benny Gantz the current Chief of Staff of the IDF. Apparently, it is Gantz’s custom to take a few days and join a section of the 35th Bgd. (Para’s) and do tactical field exercises with them as a common soldier. This to me is a very impressive act on his part. Gantz, going back to his roots and observing what is happening with troop training, weapons and equipment is much better that a staff report on the same subject. Troops also get the feeling that he is in touch with them.

Actually, I can’t imagine an American General officer of the Army or even the more hands-on Marines doing the same thing. The only comparison I have to Gantz’s proclivity to see for himself is Adm. Olsen, who retired last year as Commander of USSOCOM, a very gritty SEAL to be sure. While unlike Gantz he did not join a SEAL platoon doing exercises on San Clemente Island, he did frequently showed up at Coronado to join in doing free weights, long distance runs, and more gruelingly, swim out to the Point Loma buoy and back with the teams. Even at age 59 it was hard to beat him in the water.

I don’t know if Gantz is representative of Israeli brass (some of them seem to have a pretty developed paunch) but it should be standard procedure for the IDF and every first rate fighting force. MG Julian Thompson, who commanded 3rd Commando Bgd. in the Falklands, was well known for putting on a ruck and grabbing a rifle and joining his Marines for a speed march over Woodbury Common, not in command but as one of the men. 

And that’s my thought for the day.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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