They have fought the Taliban, survived the killing fields of Afghanistan, and have been hailed as heroes.
Now battle-hardened British troops have swapped military patrols in Helmand province for keeping the peace at barmitzvahs, synagogues and a range of communal events — and it is all thanks to a couple of former IDF soldiers.
Shai Slagter and Avi Navama run the SQR Group, a security firm that specialises in hiring and training ex-soldiers who have been made redundant from the army under government defence cuts. Ninety-five per cent of the firm’s 200 employees are former British troops.
Mr Navama, who is a former security attaché at the Israeli embassy in London and specialised in counter terrorism operations, said: “We want to help our British heroes. We give them a job and help them settle back into civilian life in the UK.”
The Israelis’ efforts have attracted praise from senior army officers, not least Colonel Richard Kemp, commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who commended them “for having the insight to focus on recruiting former British troops”.
He said: “Israeli-run security companies are widely recognised to provide among the best services in the world. With our armed forces reducing to unprecedented levels, every single job is important.”
Almost 4,500 British serviceman were made redundant in June as part of the government plan to reduce regular army numbers from 102,000 to 82,000.
“It is no surprise that SQR is snapping up British soldiers,” said Col Kemp. “British and Israeli forces have a long relationship — and of course British soldiers, like their Israeli counterparts, are admired around the world for their dedication, discipline and reliability.”
West Yorkshire-born Jay Clough, a sergeant who served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan during his 12 years’ army service, left the forces last year and is now part of the SQR recruitment and training team.
The 32-year-old said: “Shai and Avi personally sought me out to employ me. I give them advice on how to incorporate British soldiers into the firm and make them fit in better.
“A lot of soldiers feel constantly out of the loop when they come back to the UK. It’s difficult. But being here is like being in the forces — there’s always someone to talk to.
“For British guys leaving the forces, SQR is a close family-knit environment — unlike any other that I’ve worked with.”
The firm opened its London office in 2012, and provides security for high-profile individual and corporate clients, as well as communal functions and simchas.
“For us, every job is a military operation, even if it is only a barmitzvah,” said Mr Slagter.
For their employees, working for bosses with a background in Mossad, has a certain glamour.
Drummer Christian Blackie, who served with Sergeant Clough in Afghanistan and is now an SQR employee said: “Shai and Avi’s background in Israeli military and the secret service sparked my interest in SQR — I was wowed a little bit.”
Fellow Afghanistan veteran Tom Chugg agreed: “All of us guys hail to the big boys — they don’t miss a thing.”
(This article was published by the JC on August 8, 2013 written by Sandy Rashty)