Cpl. Chen is a combat infantry soldier in the elite Canine unit “Oketz” form Mevasseret Zion
From the moment I enlisted I knew I wanted to be a combat soldier, and I was very interested in Oketz. Having a close connection with dogs grants a very rare experience that not many have the opportunity to get. Unlike most combat roles, the operational successes and the wide scope of activities carried out by girls in Oketz made me want to come here.
I started my service in the enlistment for the Caracal Battalion, and then after that I passed the screening for Oketz. We arrived as 80 girls but only five or ten were accepted. The training was hard but fun, full of experiences- from the marches to the final test. After we finished advanced training with Caracal, we went through 6 months of canine training in the unit. It’s in this period that you establish a relationship with your dog and train it for operations. In the case of my dog, Domino, who is responsible for the discovery of weapons and explosives, has to be trained well enough to be able to find a single bullet in a car. Domino was always a little slow with searching, so it took a while to train him- had to give him some motivation with toy balls.
Our routine and day-to-day is to secure the border crossings and detect weapons being smuggled across the border in vehicles. We also go out on other operational activities. Within a month and a half of my regular service I was going out into the West Bank to patrol and scan villages. The road we had to take by foot was enormous. We started to march at night and I was very excited. I looked around at all the boys and realized I was the only girl, and I was managing just fine. The feeling you get is amazing, especially if the dog indicates that he found something and the operation succeeds.
The course and the training period are very intense. You’re talking about a year of living on a stopwatch, being on constant alert. There are a lot of physical and psychological hardships but these difficulties helped create the extraordinary relationships I had with all the girls I served with. These relationships are one of my favorite things I experienced in this job. And of course my relationship with my amazing dog.
Throughout my service in this unit, which is comprised mostly of men, I’ve gotten nothing but respect. No matter how much it hurts, you continue to struggle to prove yourself. A lot of people hear about women combat soldiers, but when they meet one face to face they are very impressed. The environment is very encouraging and supportive, and my parents are especially proud.
Our job attracts excellence. Even if we aren’t required to do all the physical training in our regular service, you have to do it anyway otherwise you can’t keep up on missions. It’s a lot of responsibility. You have to contribute a lot, but you develop as a person, on all levels.