U.S. Army Capt. Stephen Hummel, IDF Capt. Ofer Yizhar-Barnea, and IDF 2nd Lt. Ayelet Yosef at a dinner at the start of the joint exercise.(Stripes.com)

The U.S. military’s three-week missile-defense maneuvers with the IDF recently ended, and the 1,000 American service members who participated in what’s called Exercise Juniper Cobra are returning home very cognizant of the cultural differences between the two countries’ forces. “The flip-flops,” U.S. Army Sgt. Delvona Maria, a chemical specialist, noted incredulously of her IDF counterparts, in a Stars & Stripes article. “No. We’re around heavy equipment.” U.S. forces were generally bemused by the Israelis’ informality, the paper noted, from and sandals and pedicured feet to suggestively tailored uniforms (“We’re not going there,” said an American officer) to soldiers’ habit of calling each other—and even their commanders—by their first names. Israel, the paper notes, is the only Western country in which women are drafted alongside men; gays also serve openly in the IDF. The IDF’s more relaxed approach, according to one Israeli soldier, results from the fact that it remains a “people’s army,” built by a draft in a country “with a lot of Jewish family values.” Still, Sgt. Maria, who wears her hair in a tight bun, remained confused by the Israeli women, who often wear their hair in what Stars & Stripes calls “loose, fetching ponytails.” “How is the mask going to fit over it?” she asked.

Informal Service [Stars & Stripes]