Israel’s elite Search and Rescue Unit, codenamed 669, is sharing its vast professional knowledge with partners around the world, and especially with Jewish communities, in an effort to improve emergency response and save lives.
Unit 669 is the IDF’s heliborne combat search and rescue extraction unit, subordinate to the Special Air Forces Command of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). It is considered one of the four premier elite units of the IDF and is responsible for the rescue and evacuation of all IDF personnel, including ground forces, naval forces and pilots.
The unit’s alumni, called the Cat Alumni Association (CAA) after the Unit’s logo of a winged, green-eyed, black cat, organize an annual international emergency healthcare conference, in which the alumni share their experiences and accumulated knowledge from the battlefield. Various emergency organizations attend the conference to learn from the Israeli soldiers’ rich knowledge and abilities.
Members of the CAA also give classes on emergency healthcare to Jewish and Israeli communities around the world. Community members learn how to support local emergency units by administering crucial first aid to victims until professional emergency teams arrive.
They share their experience with the local emergency units as well, improving the systematic emergency dispatch based on past experience of the CAA members.
Another initiative the CAA has undertaken is a project in which the alumni tell their stories to communities abroad. The fascinating stories of the 669 Unit soldiers, who endanger their lives daily to save others’ lives, have proven very popular with crowds around the world.
Bar Reuven, CAA’s Co-founder and CEO, said the Unit’s alumni’s mission has always been to save lives, and they hope their global rescue mission will strengthen in the coming years.
“During our military service, we undertook the responsibility to join a small special unit, whose only goal is saving human lives. Both within and beyond the borders of Israel, day or night, hot or cold, regardless of the kind of mission, our duty is to be there, rescue, evacuate and act as the national safety net of Israeli citizens and Jews around the world,” he said.
Reuven told TPS that being an alumnus of the 669 unit has been an asset for him ever since his army service.
“Taking part in the search and rescue efforts of the Unit has taught me to always think on my feet. Having to work under pressure, I learned to prioritize and solve issues as they arose, which is particularly crucial in dangerous scenarios. The daily stress at the Unit fosters a mental and emotional resilience that alumni take with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.
”When CAA members share their capabilities with communities around the world, these traits are immensely important,” he added.