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November 24, 2004

Excerpts: Spies Inc. - Part IV

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 6:35 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Talpiot is like a military Mensa. The soldiers of Talpiot begin their military service at Hebrew University. They are housed apart from the main student population, living instead in specially built barracks on the Givat Ram campus in Jerusalem. During the academic portion of the program, they study for their bachelors of science in physics, mathematics, and computer science, and they take technological courses at an accelerated rate, covering about 40 percent more material than they would in a regular BS degree program . These soldiers are also trained in military strategy and complete an officers training course. We expect them all to become officers, said Colonel Yaacov Nagel, the acting head of research and development. If after three years they fail the officers class, they wont be Talpiot graduates. In the last class we almost lost one, he said. It would be very shameful if we lost one after three years. However, until now theyve all become officers.
They spend their summers doing 12 weeks of basic training. It is the same tough, no-holds-barred program given to the paratroopers. They train in the desert, hiking with 10 to 20 kilos and rifles on their backs, and they learn to jump out of planes. We put them through a tough course, the same as paratroopers, because we want them to be strong and brave too, explained Zadik.
Talpiot soldiers take special courses rotating with each force of the army: intelligence, navy, and air force. They learn about the weapon systems from the inside. They sit in cockpits of fighter jets and shoot off weaponry to gain a real understanding of its operational and technological needs. Its not just theoretical, explained Zadik. They know what it means to spend cold nights for one month in the Negev in a tank. During the second year, they devise a project of their own choosing for three months. After all, Lieutenant Colonel Poleg reiterated, The idea of Talpiot is to raise the next generation of R&D. The last six years of the program are divided between two years in field units and four as an R&D officer.
The idea behind Talpiot was to create a unique group of men and women with extremely high IQs and aptitude for performance, and provide this group with an equally unique environment. Talpiot members are exposed to multidisciplinary studies in military strategy, the sciences, computers, math, and physics, and they receive instruction from the nations elite such as Nobel prize-winning economists. They participate in top-flight security systems both in the field and in the lab establishing fields of inquiry. There are many brilliant ideas, said Major Barak Ben-Eliezar, Talpiots commander. Most of them have ideas, but not just ideasthey bring about change.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.