THE NEGEV DESERT -- Retired U.S. Army General Jerry Boykin recently addressed officers at the Baad Ehad, the number one training base for Israeli army officers. It is essentially the West Point of the Israeli Defense Forces.
"Gentlemen, you are the future of Israel," Boykin told his Baad Ehad audience. "Whenever I can be in an audience of real warriors it has very special meaning and given that this is Israel and these are the people that are going to defend this nation, it was a great honor to be with them."
Boykin has many years of combat experience. He helped form America's elite Delta Force and commanded the U.S. forces in Somalia in 1993, which were depicted in the movie "Black Hawk Down."
Still, he knows Israeli soldiers face a unique challenge.
"I've never stood on my own shores and defended my nation and I have a great admiration and respect for you, because that's exactly what you do," Boykin said. "I cannot imagine what it is like to live knowing that at any time your family can be hit by a rocket or a mortar or even worse a nuclear weapon."
Boykin added, "We all know they're facing the threat of a nuclear Iran, a nation that's led by a man who's denied the Holocaust, who has repeatedly talked about the annihilation of Israel and he's serious. So they face a threat that we as Americans simply don't understand."
While the Israel Defense Force fights on its own land, some have criticized its actions.
The latest example is a United Nations report issued by a retired Judge Richard Goldstone. His report accused the IDF of war crimes during its operation in Gaza last year to eliminate Hamas rocket fire against Israeli civilians.
However, Boykin disagrees with Goldstone's assessment.
"I've seen videos of how careful the Israelis have been to protect innocent lives and property and the Goldstone report says exactly the opposite," the retired general said.
At the base, Boykin talked soldier to soldier, knowing the camaraderie soldiers share and the challenges soldiers face.
"Many of you in here have seen combat and you understand the camaraderie of soldiers," Boykin said. "Camaraderie that requires you to trust the man next to you."
"And the question that each of us has to ask is what price are we willing to pay for what we believe in," he continued. "And some of you might be called to pay that ultimate price for this land that God gave the Jews."