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Israel’s Elite Search & Rescue Unit 669, the Product of Patriotism & Humanism

Unit 669 in training - Photo credit Oren Cohen
Unit 669 in training - Photo credit Oren Cohen

The 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria, is etched deeply in the state of Israel’s history of wars.

The name of the war attests to the day it began, on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Holy Atonement Day. The high casualties of this war, between 2,521 and 2,800 killed in action and an additional 7,250 to 8,800 soldiers wounded, left a deep scar in the Israeli nation’s social fabric.

Consequently, in the aftermath of the war, in 1974, a year after the war ended, Israel’s Elite Search & Rescue Unit 669 was founded.

Unit 669 in training – Photo credit Oren Cohen

Since then, its soldiers have been responsible for hundreds of rescue operations within Israel’s borders and abroad.

I first met members of the unit in 2019 and after our meeting I penned a story: ‘669: The Travelling Saving Life Angels.

The writer with Unit 669 members – Photo credit Nurit Greenger

Israel Defense Forces (The IDF) is the army of the people by the people. Young men and women are drafted straight after graduating high school and serve for 2-to-3 years in mandatory service. The conscripted soldiers take their service to heart and are very proud to serve. After all, they are protecting their immediate family as well as the entire nation.

Take for instance Roey Peleg, a fighter and an officer, a member of the 669 squad. Roey, together with his brother founded the Pathway-Hamaslul, a rigorous training regimen leading to significant Israeli military service. Pathway is an educational organization. Its programs enhance the person’s inner strength through mental and physical challenges and the love for the land of Israel. It is not only a superb preparatory for service in the IDF but also a guide to a way of life. Having strong principles and persistence together with a long and difficult training course, Pathway sees itself a significant key to success in life. Pathway helps reinforce one’s love for the country and the strength to protect it, moreover, a person’s own inner strength and the ability to build a good future.

Meet the 669 Unit heroes

The members of Unit 669 are a tightly connected unique family, like a band of brothers. Belonging to this family begins the moment a soldier joins the unit until the end of his time.

The main mission of Unit 669 is to rescue both military and civilian casualties, anywhere and under any circumstances and conditions, be it enemy territory, under hostile fire, or civilians caught in any type of emergency situation.

The Unit 669 member guiding principle is [we are] “one call away.” Due to the emergency first responder nature of the unit, neither time of day, location nor the type of mission can be foreseen. Therefore, all the unit’s commanders and soldiers go through comprehensive combat and medical first-aid training as well as specialty training such as diving, rappelling, etc. The reason is that there is no time for selection according to one’s specialty when the “one call away” siren goes off.

Unit 669 rescue team at sea – Photo credit Oren Cohen
Unit 669 rescue team at nigh mission – Photo credit Oren Cohen
Unit 669 rescue team member on the cliff – Photo credit Oren Cohen
Unit 669 rescue team at rescue mission – Photo credit Oren Cohen

In some notable international operations, in 1991, in the top-secret complex ‘Operation Solomon‘, Unit 669 operatives repatriated over 14,500 Ethiopian Jews and brought them safely to Israel; in 1997 they evacuated an injured Israeli Naval commando team following an operation in Lebanon; in 2003, Unit 669 soldiers saved the lives of Turkish seamen who were caught in a heavy storm in the Mediterranean Sea; in 2009 they extracted crew members from a sinking Ukrainian cargo ship. But these are just the tip of the unit’s heroic accomplishments to save lives.

October 2021 Unit 669 US Introductory Tour

The last two years of the COVID era kept many people away from each other, countries closed to visitors and social gatherings were eliminated for a while. Slowly life as we knew it before the virus took over is returning to some normalcy.

Unit 669 rescue team Cat logo during COVID – ‘One Call Away’ no matter what!

Throughout the months of October 2021, Israel’s elite Search & Rescue Unit 669 combat officers and medics will hold panel discussions in several US cities, in Maryland, California, and Florida.

The reserve commanders, medics, and soldiers will engage in intimate conversations about their military service in the IDF and share personal service experiences.

While on their US tour, members of IDF Unit 669 invite Americans to partake in the events and have an in-person opportunity to meet, greet and ask questions of the unit’s reserve combat officers.

Some of the introductory topics to the unit’s range of tasks would be: ‘how one makes life-or-death decisions under pressure?’; ‘how to coordinate a rescue operation with pilots, ground forces and doctors under fire’; ‘what skills does it take to become a top military rescuer?’

These events are organized by American Friends of Unit 669. See more about Unit 669 HERE. American Friends of Unit 669 is a non-profit organization established to support the welfare of the unit’s active soldiers as well as support its alumni, many of whom have a solid foundation to become leaders in Israeli business and social fabric and Cat 669 Alumni Association.

Unit 669 – American Friends of Unit 669 logo

American Friends of Unit 669 support helps encourage Unit 669 alumni to maximize their individual potential for their own benefit, the Unit, and all the people of Israel. The Cat Association prides itself on the social impact it provides

The Cat Association social impact is described in this video:

Upcoming Events

To learn more about the upcoming events and to register:

October 5th, 2021, in Rockville, Maryland;

October 6th, 2021, in Baltimore, Maryland;

October 11th, 2021, in Los Angeles, California;

October 13th, 2021, in Long Beach, California;

October 14th, 2021, in Northridge, California;

October 18th, 2021, Bal Harbour, Florida;

October 21st, 2021, in Miami, Florida;

There are paths in life one takes, perhaps with much thought or just an impulse that changes one’s life trajectory for better or for worse. Becoming a member of Israel’s Elite Search & Rescue Unit 669 is that road that even when you veer from it, you will certainly get the help you need to get back on it and walk it as smoothly as possible.

Members of Unit 669 have been gifted.

Unit 669 rescue team member in action – Photo credit Oren Cohen

During the 2006 second Lebanon War, Nurit Greenger, referenced then as the “Accidental Reporter” felt compelled to become an activist. Being an ‘out-of-the-box thinker, Nurit is a passionately committed advocate for Jews, Israel, the United States, and the Free World in general. From Southern California, Nurit serves as a “one-woman Hasbarah army” for Israel who believes that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.

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