My wife, Karen, is a brilliant and gifted psychologist. Over the years I have learned a great deal about autism, and in the process shed many misconceptions.
This entry from the IDF Blog highlights how the Jewish state gives responsibility to those on the spectrum with some of the most important and sensitive military intelligence.
The IDF is a multifaceted body, with various units and teams that are highly classified and specialized. One such example is a team within the Intelligence Corps’ Unit 9900: the soldiers that serve in the unique “Roim Rachok” (RR) Program – Hebrew for far beyond horizons. The soldiers are some of IDF’s most valued, and each and every one of them is on the autism spectrum.
Soldiers that compose this highly classified branch are some of the most specialized in the IDF. The members are all on the autism spectrum and are gifted with an incredible ability to analyze, interpret, and understand satellite images and maps. Their work helps greatly in protecting Israel’s population, and the unit itself is unlike any other in the IDF. On World Autism Awareness Day we celebrate their outstanding work and try to better understand the people behind the uniform, and what makes them one of the most typical, yet extraordinary soldiers defending our country.
The work done in the RR Program is largely in collaboration with other branches of Unit 9900. They use satellite imagery and maps to understand Israel’s geographical landscape and defend its borders. Soldiers all undergo a rigorous, and highly selective process to be accepted to 9900, and the RR Program is no different. The soldiers all have an incredible responsibility, and utilize their outstanding skills to help gather invaluable intelligence that protects Israel’s borders.
The elite, secret group of soldiers who serve within the RR Program, are indeed unlike any group in the IDF, but not only because they are all on the autism spectrum. These soldiers are all volunteers. They could have been exempt from military service in the IDF, but insisted on contributing just like their peers. They are endowed with a deep motivation and desire to serve their country and become an active part of the society they live in. The most recent group of 11 soldiers in the RR Program, like those before them, are given the choice of serving for one year or extending, and 9 out of these 11 have decided to extend their service.
One soldier was previously not accepted into the IDF general enlistment but decided to volunteer to give back to the country. “I face challenges and I manage to hold my own. Take on the challenges,” the soldier explained. “It’s a great opportunity to serve, like others, and to connect to the society we live in.” Another explains his reason for signing an extra year as a product of their reliance on his work. “They value me and they depend on me,” he concluded.
As a product of their incredible visual and analytical skills they are qualified to serve alongside the soldiers of the Intelligence Corps’ Unit 9900, and thanks to their great motivation the RR Program has proven to be a remarkable success.