By Sgt. 1st Class Jim GreenhillNovember 24, 2019
TEL AVIV, Israel - The nation's response to ongoing rocket attacks gave the chief of the National Guard Bureau a firsthand illustration of Israel's level of readiness and preparedness during a recent visit.
"Resilience is a weapon," Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said. "The Israelis defeat terrorism in part by refusing to allow it to disrupt life more than absolutely necessary."
Although hundreds of rockets targeted the country during his four-day visit, civilians were intent on minimizing the disruption to their daily lives - and military leaders executed a full schedule of site visits and information exchanges.
"We can learn much from Israel's cutting-edge disaster response techniques and strategies, and from the resilience of the civilian population," Lengyel said.
Despite the immediate challenge of a flare-up of violence, Israeli commanders monitored ongoing threats to their northern border and stayed ready to respond to a full spectrum of no-notice natural or manmade disasters if needed.
"Wildfires, earthquake preparedness, cyber attacks and responding to terrorism are among areas where we share insights and experience," Lengyel said.
At the Lebanon border, Israeli Defense Force leaders led Lengyel deep underground, down a damp, shoulder-width passage punched through solid rock to enable infiltration from the north.
The tunnel is one of a half-dozen uncovered and sealed or destroyed by the IDF.
General Lengyel and a delegation of National Guard leaders spent time with Israeli civilian and military leaders discussing topics such as the ongoing information revolution in disaster management, how best to encourage civilian resilience, and how to communicate essential information in a much more fragmented media environment than was the case a generation ago.
Israel is helped by tools such as a precise emergency warning system that only alerts residents indirectly affected neighborhoods rather than entire swaths of urban areas. The accurate, local warnings are taken more seriously than less focused alerts were, officials, say, resulting in improved civilian response to warnings and less disruption to larger areas.
The nation also is helped by continuous public education aimed at building resilience. This starts in elementary schools, where children learn songs to help them remember how to react to warnings. Adults are provided preparedness information about the most likely natural or manmade disasters and encouraged to prioritize personal readiness.
Lengyel concluded his visit Nov. 14 with the reaffirmation of a longstanding bilateral relationship between Israel's Home Front Command and the National Guard at a signing ceremony with Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadaie, HFC commanding general.
The homeland defense cooperation partnership between the NGB and the HFC is conducted through U.S. European Command. All the National Guard's overseas partnerships are closely coordinated with the State Department and embassy teams.
"We mutually benefit from the exchange of best practices and lessons learned specific to domestic operations," Lengyel said.
Partnership activities include an officer exchange, exercise participation and events in both nations. Areas of special emphasis include chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response; search and rescue; and defense support to civil authorities responding to natural or manmade disasters.
Israeli authorities frequently assist other nations responding to disasters, such as search and rescue assistance provided in Brazil after a dam failed earlier this year.
"We continue to learn from the Israeli experience," Lengyel said, "and we contribute our best practices and insights from our almost 383-years serving as America's military-first responder."