Friday, 6 February 2009


Female Combat Paramedics in Battle

25 January 2009 , 22:42

Sapphire Itskovich

''There is no greater satisfaction than when a wounded person I treated thanks me.”.

Photo: Medical Corps

When thinking about Operation Cast Lead, images of muddy combat soldiers, weapons in hand, in the course of or completing an operational activity deep in the Gaza Strip come to mind. Those very combat soldiers might think of another different image, that of Corporal Meshi Saad, one of the only female paramedics who entered the Gaza Strip with the combat battalions.

When the operation began, Cpl. Meshi Saad, who lives in Naham, was already on the base of the Combat Engineering battalion where she serves for 28 days. Despite the fact that she had not been home in a long time, the message about the expected ground operation in the Gaza Strip made her feel that this was finally her chance to fulfill her role as a combat paramedic.

By the first night of the operation, Meshi went, along with her battalion, to the training and preparation base and began to equip the APCs together with the rest of the medical personnel. When the likelihood of entering the Gaza Strip rose, Meshi became a little nervous, but positive, because despite her many years of experience working in Magen David Adom, she had only recently finished the long training period for Medical Corps paramedics. She is no risk taker and developed a strict training routine for all the medics at the battalion’s collecting station. “I felt that I didn’t have enough experience, so we trained for days with the help of national instructors,” says Meshi. “We trained with full equipment on our backs until I felt completely ready.”

Cpl. Saad’s instincts turned out to be justified, and at the beginning of the ground stage of the operation it was decided that she and her battalion would enter the Gaza Strip. In retrospect she says that she found it a little hard to believe when the battalion commander ordered her to enter the Gaza Strip together with the battalion. “A girl in the Gaza Strip? Even I found that weird.”

“Girl, what are you doing here?”

Meshi says that the connection between the soldiers of the Achzarit APC, is inexplicable, because it is so strong and real. “Time stops,” she explains, “People talk about unusual things and a bond is created that only those who were inside can understand.” In the course of the fighting, while the operation intensify more and more, so did the relationship between the crew of the Achzarit, the driver, gunner, navigation officer, medic, battalion medic and paramedic. “The crew is like one big family, and everyone knows everything about everyone.”

This bond does however not develop easily. On the first evening in the Achrazit, the driver and the gunner, who met Meshi for the first time, were surprised to discover that despite the obvious physical differences, Meshi is not at a lower level than the rest of her inseparable crew, and that she acts in a manner as firm and knowledgeable as any of them. “When I am with the crew, I am one of them and I also learn things from them. This is not the place for pampering, so I left the pampering and the femininity at home,” she says.

Meshi’s crew knows her capabilities well and did not recoil from the female presence in the Achzarit, and even jokes like “Meshi, add some feminine touch” got old quickly. Nevertheless it seems that not everyone finds the sight of a woman in the combat field of the Gaza Strip natural, so Meshi’s every appearance of outside the fighters’ quarters was accompanied by turning heads and usually also with the question, “Girl, what are you doing here?”

Meshi explains that particularly, during the most critical part of her work – the treatment of the wounded – gender in irrelevant. During the course of the fighting Meshi transferred, with the help of a doctor, three Golani Brigade soldiers to the Achzarit to provide them with medical treatment. “We checked the vital signs of all of the wounded and made sure that no shrapnel had entered critical parts of the body,” she says, “The most important thing is to cheer them up and to talk to them.” Cpl. Saad says that the commonality between all the wounded she treated was their will to return to the comrades on the battle field and concern for them.

I have redefined the meaning of the word urgent”

Meshi makes note that dealing with such an emergency situation has changed her for the better and adds that since she became a paramedic, her ability for self-restraint has increased drastically. “The job has taught me to avoid unnecessary arguments,” she says. “Since I only deal with urgent things, I have redefined the meaning of the word urgent. What can be more urgent than what I am working at right now?”

When she reflects on the field that she chose to work in, she immediately gains her composure and understands that there is no other job that suits her more. “I would have performed any other job less well. Being a paramedic is entirely me, and I don’t regret it for one second.”

It seems that Cpl. Meshi Saad’s decisiveness is contagious. Her younger sister, who is soon enlisting, already set herself the goal of becoming a regular combat soldier. “One of the things I have set for myself regarding my service in the IDF, is to contribute as much as possible and be satisfied with my service,” says Meshi. “I encouraged her to take a similar path.” In advising her little sister she says, “I think that whoever does this task, has the right to do exceptional things. There is no greater satisfaction than when a wounded person I treated thanks me.”

from the I D F site (

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