The soldiers in the Nahal Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion went through one year and three months of hard work to finish their course. After enlisting to the IDF in November 2016, they just completed their challenging training and are celebrating with an extraordinary and emotional ceremony. Now they’re officially part of the Nahal Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion. After this long and intense course, their last day is particularly special.

“I commanded these soldiers, who are becoming combat soldiers today, from their first moment in uniform, when they first entered in the battalion, until today. It’s been one year and three months (later)," proudly said Cpt. Omri, commander of the training company of the Nahal Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion. "In the last month we started the final chapter of the training, and the final march is actually our last operation as a company."

They began the final week of training on Sunday morning, when the soldiers arrived at the meeting spot in northern Israel. The teams were trained according to their operational objectives and practiced in a wide range of scenarios on the northern border.

"The Anti-Tank Company is involved in targeting, observation, and missile fire. The Combat Engineering Company is responsible for sabotage and engineering operations and the Reconnaissance Company focuses on underground warfare and commando tactics," says Cpt. Omri.

In the middle of the week, the participants moved to the south and on Wednesday they carried out their last company drill. "It's an exercise that combines everything they've learned for a year and three months. It's powerful, large, and requires a high level of concentration," explains the company commander. "But what they are highly anticipating what will happen 12 hours later."

On the fifth day of the final week, the combat soldiers stood under a tree at the foot of Mount Haqannaim. It was three in the morning and freezing cold. They had only heard about this moment and were waiting for it from the day they enlisted.

“In my opening conversation with them over a year ago, I tried to explain to them the feeling, the intensity and the racing thoughts,” explained Cpt. Omri.“This is my third time at Mount Haqannaim and I’m trying to process  the moment.

“Every company in the battalion has its own unique rituals and paths that they climb on the same mountain," the commander explained."The battalion's soldiers arrive at the mountain in the dark, wearing black robes and  masks, accompanied by musical instruments, and colorful smoke grenades. It's a long-standing tradition."

The graduates are instructed to run on the path between the tree at the foot of the mountain and to the peak. The reconnaissance company ascends the steepest path and reaches the southern peak of the mountain. The other companies hike up the mountain, one after the other, and stand in a circle facing the sun rising from the east.

The veterans of the Reconnaissance Battalion greet the soldiers with songs to boost their morale- songs that’ve been passing through the battalion for several generations. Then, the new soldiers take  their equipment off after a long exercise that they only vaguely remember. This is the moment they are finally accepted into the battalion.

“It's a bit hard to put into words. It’s a moment of liberation, of an ending and of a beginning. It’s the happiest moment, the one that they were waiting for the most," says Cpt. Omri excitedly. "To say that I’m proud of them feels insulting to me, because it is nothing compared to what I truly feel."

“It's rare that there’s one commander who accompanies the training from beginning to end and I feel like I’ve won,” Cpt. Omri concluded. “I get to be their father, champion and someone who loves them, but also the one who demands the most from them and pushes them until the end."