Bullet shells are flying and the sound of targets being hit pierces the air. This is a daily scene for Sgt. Sarit Petersen. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Sgt. Petersen currently serves as a shooting instructor in the Nahal Infantry Brigade. The soldiers she commands range from brand new to advanced; the advanced soldiers are part of the reconnaissance brigade. As a shooting instructor, Sgt. Petersen is responsible for teaching a soldier about his weapon and how to use it.
Each soldier must be confident with their weapon and understand it thoroughly before they can shoot accurately. In order to accomplish this, shooting instructors go through a nine week intensive course, learning about most of the weapons that the IDF uses, their history, and do general job training. “It can be very stressful and nerve racking for soldiers who are shooting for the first time,” explains Sgt. Petersen. So in order for her to not only excel at her job, but also teach and reassure her soldiers, she must understand and be knowledgeable in all aspects of weapons training.
When Sgt. Petersen is not working with new soldiers, she prepares advanced training drills for the reconnaissance brigade. Once soldiers pass the mandatory shooting requirements, it is up to the shooting instructors to prepare more advanced shooting drills. Sgt. Petersen prepares all types of drills, with variation each time in the stances, distances and the amount of bullets shot. Once a drill is prepared on paper, shooting instructors must always pass their own drills before soldiers are expected to participate in the drill.
In order to keep things interesting, Sgt. Petersen applies different tactics to test soldiers’ stress levels. “Throughout my experience with weapons training, I’ve learned that the key element in shooting is to relax and stay focused and calm,” she says. “It isn’t easy to teach this to new soldiers, who are often anxious about the task at hand.” But with careful training and exercises, Sgt. Petersen instills these potentially life-saving lessons in her new soldiers.
During a visit to Israel, while she was in the 12th Grade, Sgt. Petersen fell in love with the country. After high school, she moved to Israel and decided her calling was to serve in the IDF. A little uncertain of what lay ahead but with this new adventure in front of her, Sgt. Petersen joined the Mahal Program, which allowed her to enlist and serve for a year and a half. “I felt that this experience and this time would allow me to get to know the country and its people, and decide if Israel is a place I could see myself living and settling down in,” she says. After serving almost all of her service, Sgt. Petersen was so satisfied with her position that she signed on for another six months, allowing her to complete two full years in the IDF.
When Sgt. Petersen finishes her IDF service she intends to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel), and continue her life here. Her future plans include university, and becoming part of the framework of Israeli society.
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