I have been reading you for several years with great interest as your articles delve into important issues in the world of defense, thanks to the competence of your editors and thanks to the critical spirit that often allows you to express ideas in contrast with a politically correct thought, the son of a historical time in which everyone can express his or her own idea of facts that they do not know.
Among the articles on your site these days, one in particular has aroused my curiosity: the marriage of two Italian soldiers in Lebanon (v.link). The news was immediately leaked spreading with the speed of social networks that in real time have released un "official" photos and videos, which frame the facts from a perspective that will never leak from the press information channels. The singularity of this event is not certain that it is a marriage between two soldiers, which has not been news for twenty years and for which there is absolutely nothing wrong.
The location and the context in which this wedding took place are singular. The two soldiers in question are on duty at the contingent located in Lebanon that is part of the UNIFIL mission and therefore, at the time of the wedding, the two were part of the forces that have the task of ensuring the security of a large area of territory historically prone to conflict . The question is how the wedding event can be compatible with the operations requested in this context.
Since the first missions outside the area, the Italian armed forces have experienced very troubled times in which soldiers have adapted to difficult conditions. It was the nineties and first in Somalia and then in the Balkans ours showed their value despite not always up to par equipment, living in insecure buildings lacking essential services or resting whenever possible in the VCC. Our armed forces proved to be up to the task by gaining the esteem of the local populations and the appreciation of the allies who were used to looking down on us.
Then came the times of the missions in the Middle East, where the Italian soldier, already more mature in terms of preparation for operations in asymmetric contexts and better equipped, endured the suffocating heat and the cold nights of the desert, which make the tents of the camps an at least inadequate hospitalization. Tents placed in corners of a hostile world, protected by a wall in baskets filled with sand that had the task of absorbing the violence of the explosions, which became part of everyday life. And it didn't matter if you had slept well or not, because the next day, however, our heroic soldiers and soldiers went out on patrol with the indomitable and always optimistic spirit that distinguishes our people. The long columns of our vehicles faced the pitfalls of a lunar landscape that hid under its soil deadly traps that stole too many precious lives from our ranks.
This spirit has not been bowed to Nassiria and our pride has reached very high levels with the battle of the bridges (Photo), where the value and the preparation of our soldiers overturned a situation in which the battlefield, the site of the clash, was certainly at our disadvantage.
Up to the present day, where men and women of the armed forces are employed in missions in North Africa in some aspects more complicated because there are different bilateral agreements with host nations, but which however require a profound spirit of adaptation of our staff to uncomfortable contexts and surrounded by warring factions facing each other with heavy equipment, including tanks and artillery, without forgetting even a minimal, but still potentially dangerous, air capacity.
But what does public opinion know about all this and what do you think of all our sacrifice? How many times have we heard phrases like "go on a mission to make money", or "you bought your house thanks to the missions" and also "nice new car, thanks to the mission money of course!". It is increasingly difficult to explain to those who have never experienced these moments that on a mission you work 24/7, without parties, away from families and in conditions of hardship, doing a job that few are willing to do. When you talk about the dead and injured, the explosions near or inside the bases, the ambushes (they call them terrorist attacks but they are more simply actions of war, however asymmetric), your friends and relatives don't understand, they answer that they are things that they only happen to the Americans, because they are the operatives and we are there just to make a presence, we are only a side dish, without a real commitment.
Years to explain how completely this vision of the weak, poorly equipped and worse trained Italian soldier is completely wrong; years of reasoning to show that the Italian soldier does not live for the day, does not mess around, does not play trump in the barracks, but is a serious professional who manages to work as, if not better, than the Americans, if we compare the available resources.
Hours wasted describing uncomfortable contexts with the fine desert dust that under the scorching sun turns into a talcum powder that fills your lungs and kneads with sweat, which inside the Lynx you can hardly move due to the size of the equipment and for the harnesses that must save your life, that the armor and bulletproof glass of the vehicles have avoided the worst of many of us and instead many others have been urgently transported by helicopter in an extreme attempt to save his life, provided that not it was now too late.
You have almost convinced those who have always seen you as a social parasite and then the news arrives that on a mission the environment is so relaxed that you can even get married. That the night before the wedding you can fill the compound with choruses and joyful screams for the happy event. Could you really not turn on a light during the night in FOB? Did you really have to look for the bathroom in the dark so as not to be spotted by a sniper on the splendid moonless nights of the desert? Did they really repatriate you if you had intimate relationships with your colleague? ALL BALES! The Italian soldiers on a mission can marry, sing at the top of their lungs, toast, to celebrate! The operating context is a bale to justify the money we take in addition to our normal salary!
And when does all this happen? When in Italy and in the rest of the world we live as inmates, forced to social distancing, where the gathering is punished with high fines and where most of the population sees a future of hunger due to the still economy. All this occurs in contrast to the anti COVID-19 rules, unlike what is written in your article of 5 May which describes how in Lebanon the Italian contingent has adapted to the stringent prevention measures.
Are we really convinced that this event is a good advertisement for the armed forces?
But then, was it so necessary? Couldn't one wait to return to Italy? A mission lasts 6 months, was it not possible to wait? Or maybe, if there was really all this urgency, would it not have been more correct to renounce the mission and return home to celebrate the wedding? Perhaps the most mischievous might think that in this way the spouses would have had to give up the famous salary money that is used to pay the mortgage or buy the new car ...
At this point someone could point to the commanders being too permissive towards their soldiers. I say no. For some time now, a real ideological revolution has been underway in the armed forces, in which the institution is destined to become increasingly bourgeois and thus lose its peculiarity as an armed force. In the operating theaters, the use of the RSPPs to draft the risk assessment document has long been consolidated. All right, isn't it? Of course, even if it seems at least contradictory that this document has the purpose of applying the decree 81/08 and subsequent amendments. in a context which by its nature is characterized by risks that cannot be mitigated. The very definition of contingent says it, or a precarious situation characterized by adaptation to contexts in which you cannot move as if you were on the national territory. And here all the non-standard steps or corners are signaled with warning signs of all kinds, the squares are illuminated for the risk that some soldiers stumble at night and many other things on which I do not go too far to not go off topic.
In this changed context that has little operational status, the commanders have become employers, castrated by the effects that the dislocation of a soldier who stumbles on a "non-compliant step" could have and which could therefore sue the institution . The magistrate will not care if this step is part of a building built by the Russians in the seventies and that our contingents occupy because the host nation told him to do it.
And let's get to the point: could the commander have opposed this at least inappropriate choice to marry two soldiers in a context that wants them fully operational 24/7? Unfortunately the answer is no.
Also because the unions of the Armed Forces are being born, and we can only imagine that many would have eaten the poor commander on duty alive if he had tried to bring the two newlyweds back to the reason for opportunity. The commander's gesture would have been seen as an abuse, an attempt to deny the freedom of expression of the two lovers. It would have denied them an inalienable right and the context does not matter.
The armed forces are adapting to the times, slowly transforming themselves from an institution based on precise rules to a context in which anyone can decide according to their own conscience. And I don't think that's always a good thing for our institution.
This obviously remains only my personal reflection.
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Photo: NATO / web / defense staff