Future Soldiers of Israel

Associated Press photographer Oded Balilty recently followed a group of teenage boys in Israel as they prepared to join the Israeli military. With a mandatory three-year military service looming after graduation, young men gear up for the draft, get into shape in privately run training programs, and try to improve their chances of acceptance into elite combat units. (Young Israeli women also serve mandatory military time, though they make up only 3 percent of the country's combat forces.) The teenagers undergo rigorous physical challenges, urban combat lessons, and assault rifle training, readying themselves for their upcoming rite of passage. [15 photos total]

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In this March 24, 2015 photo, Israeli high-school seniors preparing to join the Israeli military participate in an urban fighting drill as part of privately run military combat fitness training, in Kibbutz Mizra, northern Israel. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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Israeli high-school seniors preparing to join the Israeli military later this year crawl out of mud up to a grassy embankment during an exercise at a privately run training camp near Yakum, central Israel, on February 13, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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An Israeli high-school senior crawls through mud during an exercise takes at a privately run training camp for military combat fitness near Yakum, Israel, on February 13, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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An Israeli high-school senior wears a mask during an urban fighting drill as part of privately run military combat fitness training in Kibbutz Mizra, Israel, on March 24, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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An Israeli high-school senior participates in an urban fighting drill in Kibbutz Mizra, Israel, on March 24, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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High-school seniors preparing to join the Israeli military participate in an urban fighting drill in Kibbutz Mizra, Israel, on March 24, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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Israeli high-school seniors lie in foxholes during privately run military combat fitness training in Shefayim, Israel, on March 5, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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Israeli high-school seniors walk into the sea carrying weighted bags during military combat fitness training in Shefayim, Israel on March 5, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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In this March 5, 2015, photo, Israeli high-school seniors are splashed by a sea wave during a privately run military combat fitness exercise in Shefayim, Israel. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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An exhausted Israeli teen is helped by an instructor during an exercise in Shefayim, Israel, on March 5, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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Israeli high-schoolers preparing to join the Israeli military later this year huddle during an exercise at a training camp near Yakum, Israel, on February 13, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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An Israeli teen pauses in mud during an exercise at a privately run training camp for military combat fitness near Yakum, Israel, on February 27, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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Israeli high-school seniors participate in an urban fighting drill in Kibbutz Mizra, Israel, on March 24, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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Israeli high-school seniors are instructed on the AK-47 assault rifle in Netanya, Israel, on February 17, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #
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An Israeli teen rests during an urban fighting drill, part of a privately run military combat fitness training program to prepare for national military service in Kibbutz Mizra, northern Israel, on March 24, 2015. (Oded Balilty/AP) #

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