In 1987, after the first year of War School (it was called that when the words still had a meaning and we were not embarrassed what we are) I was employed in the Army General Staff, in the Operations Room. Nothing comparable with today's Operations Rooms, of course, equipped with ultra-modern Command and Control systems that allow you to have satellite images and clear situations on any national contingent in the world in real time. In those days, however, there were only telephones, pneumatic mail, a point-to-point videoconferencing device that when it turned on treacherously created panic because it connected only with the head of SME, as well as a kind of fax type "Flintstone" ( the cavemen of “Wilma, give me the club!” so to speak). Nothing futuristic even for those distant times, therefore, but from that room were directed "joint" operations such as those in Lebanon, Northern Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia, with the Navy and the Air Force destined to ensure transport; not to mention the rescue operations for the population, from Friuli, to Irpinia, to the flood of Florence, when the Civil Protection had yet to come to lessons to learn how to exist. Times gone!
In any case, the young captain that I was, returning from the very hard course of the General Staff in Civitavecchia after years of life as a boar at the "Col Moschin", was put to deal with the "military competitions" at a table from which they started notes in bursts whenever an Administration asked for a helicopter to carry a metal cross on the mountain of Gonnosfanadiga, a company of soldiers to circumscribe a forest fire on the island of Elba, a field kitchen to feed a few hundred flood victims or earthquake victims, a bulldozer to restore a road interrupted by a landslide. Nothing complicated, then, but to give birth to those notes, overcoming the cazziatoni of the section head, the screams of the head of office and the wonder of the department head (the generals were amazed even then!) I was sweating seven shirts.
The notes, in fact! Cross and delight of the officers of the General Staff, were documents aimed at summarizing the details of a problem for the chain of command, to allow a correct and timely decision. Those entrusted to my care were simple, sparse, not like those of the operational planning officer, rich in doctrinal concepts (as in the Church at the time, there was still an unrepudiated Doctrine to be applied), references to NATO policies, speculations on costs and on the obligations of the Alliance.
For me, however, little stuff; how many men, how many machines, where, when, doing what!
In short, I still did not know it, but my scarce energy as an officer of the Special Forces lent to office work was entrusted with a function that a few decades later would be pompously defined. "Dual Use", in deference to the English, to the creative imagination of some communications officer and the will of some unsuspecting politician to discover hot water.
To tell the truth, however, there is a notable difference between what I was asked then and what happens today: back then I also had to formally assure that our men were not required any mere labor or porterage, no substitute employment. of other realities destined for it, no degrading work.
We managed a delicate and precious humanity, in fact, represented by our young conscripts, who "slapped inside" without too many ceremonies if they did not behave as they should - at least in paratroopers they still used this way - but that we would never have used in Naples to remove the waste during the operation Clean Streets in 2008 (a name from ecological operators for a scavenger activity), to stock tens of thousands of purulent eco-bales in one of our training areas like Persano or to transport that ridiculous strategic resource represented by the new phantasmagoric wheeled benches to reopen schools in times of coronavirus.
For this reason, the photos of our military "professionals" who, properly equipped with surgical masks, unload from trucks designed, produced and purchased for other tasks, benches and chairs in miniature format, replacing the janitors (or "school assistants", for those preferred), they represent a chilling sign of the times that cannot leave you indifferent.
How does the request of the mayor of Reggio Calabria to use the Army to remove city waste does not leave indifferent. It is not surprising, in fact, that Minister Guerini wishes to provide support in this part of the electoral campaign to his party mate, but for those who have known another Defense his assurance that "there is no problem" cannot fail. in this regard and that the “Safe Roads device” will be used (as for evocative names it will be necessary to borrow from the Traffic Police sooner or later), while the Armed Forces will limit themselves to “making resources available only”.
It is chilling, as I said, because those "resources" are men selected and trained for other tasks, whose expectations are frustrated, professionalism is humiliated and self-love is marred while, a few strokes from our shores, other soldiers fill the void left by us in Libya, countries of our Alliance threaten to get into armed conflict for territorial issues and our fishing boats are seized without being able to do anything but throw the jacket to some friend of friends to bring the crisis back.
These "professional" soldiers, prevented in their main task - training - with that operation of psychological comfort to public opinion represented precisely by Safe Roads, in fact, assignments are imposed that any captain of the EMS Operations Room in my day would have rejected already at his level, with a simple phone call and without bothering the command line.
How could we have fallen so low then? Is it possible that today's “professionals” are given tasks that one would be ashamed to assign to young conscripts?
Possible, possible! It would be easy but insufficient to unload everything on the shoulders of the penultimate Minister of Defense (Elisabetta Trenta, ndd) that of Dual Use she proposed herself as an authoritative godmother. A minister minister, probably imposed to officially sanction with what he is and not with what he knows the passage of the Armed Forces from the dimension of the exercise of force to that of responding to emergencies, indeed to needs, of any kind.
In short, less arrogance, ban on plumes and brass, only one Cricket for the head and go !, to work for the real needs of the people.
But the fault lies also with the many insiders who should not have forgotten and make us forget that the Armed Forces are above all an instrument of foreign policy. In fact, what use can a foreign policy be given to us given the complacency with which we bow to the impositions of the bullies starting from the many carolarakete who boldly plow the waves to impose their flirtations on us, to Libya that rejects the sender our soldiers sent to help him because they lack a visa on their passport (v.articolo) or evicting us from Misrata airport to make room for others, for Turkish ships that prevent ours from drilling in the Mediterranean? What should we do with the Armed Forces if no one feels the duty to defend the country with them, in its borders, in its interests, in its very dignity? In short, they should finally make themselves useful and abandon the presidium of the Bastiani fortress, as a prime minister said a decade ago, proving that, when it comes to defense, the differences between political parties soften and fade into general neglect, to say the least.
Nothing strange, therefore, that we proceed to the "normalization" of the Armed Forces, denying their specificity and humiliating them with trade union associations that, even before existing, are already exercising in the unscrupulous exercise of the breath on the fire of insubordination, by characters who they have nothing to do with the military world.
Logically, even if unfortunately for us, however, the world continues to roll in its usual direction, insensitive to our obedient and our obsessions and sooner or later it will wake us up, presenting us the bill. We hope to find ourselves still able, when this is done, to fish out a few coins left in the bottom of our empty pouches, before reducing ourselves to washing the dishes.
Photo: author / Italian Army / ministry of defense