Mario Chima: Caimano 69 - Sand and dust

Mario Chima
Ed. Indep.
pp. 579

In Italy the Alpine troops are sent to Russia and Mozambique, so it is nothing strange if the raiders of the Navy instead of their own element find themselves fighting the Taliban in the Afghan mountains and sands. Heirs of the X Mas of the Royal Navy, our Comsubin have nothing to envy to the US Navy Seals if not the number and the resources assigned.

This is the first book written by one of our incursors on duty, authorized by superiors. "Mario Chima", born in 1969, tells the story and the stages of the harsh selection and even harder training of the Incursori Operational Group (GOI), immediately giving us a sample of a typical action: the liberation of hostages in a platform oil tank occupied by terrorists.

In the following chapters we move to Afghanistan, where our special forces operate within our Task Force 45 (TF-45), under the COFS (Joint Forces Command for Special Forces Operations).

Caimano 69 is the name of the Comsubin detachment engaged together with the raiders of other departments (the usual suspects: those of the Nono, the rangers of the 4th rgt alpine paratroopers, the RAO of the 185 °, the 17th raid flock of the AM and so on ).

The TF-45 was operational until 2016 (v. article) and ours was part of it between 2005 and at least until 2012. The planned operations included Combat Shooting, Land Warfare, Military Operation in Urban Terrain (MOUT), Combat in confined spaces (ASAR), Personal Security Detail (PSD), Direct action (Direct Action, DA), search and capture of hostile elements, preferably at night. The operations alternate with informal periods of relaxation at the base camp, between camaraderie and barbecues.

The book describes the harshness of the fighting, the constant risk of dying in ambush or from an IED, the poor quality of the Afghan soldiers compared to the widespread tribal organization of the Afghan guerrilla. But we also have an insight into the training of our raiders, technological but still based on men, and it is surprising how often even the subordinates in the hierarchy can participate in continuous tactical discussions and the elaboration of missions.

The operations described in the book seem to have been taken from the librettos, such is the expository precision of panoply and operating procedures. These are complex operations, where the command and control functions are centrally managed via radio with the aid of drones, radios, gps, night vision goggles and weapons of all kinds, but in the end it is still the patrol on foot that sees it on the ground. Ours avoids giving too much information about places and men, but it is easy to believe that the actions described all take place between Camp Arena (Herat) and Farah, along the Ring Road, with the hardest commitment in Bala Mourghab. The actions described in detail are at least eight:

  1. capturing a insurgent in a village (chapter 4, p. 134-160);

  2. a RECON “in an area 200 km NE of Herat” (= Bala Mourghab) supporting the Afghan army (chap. 5, p. 205-243). Our people have to retreat after a violent firefight.

  3. a search and reclamation operation in support of Italian military forces under attack, victims of IED (chapter 6, p. 244-287 and chapter 7, p. 289-319; it should be the fact of arms in Bala Mourghab of 2 August 2012);

  4. the clashes at the Sabzak pass, 2200 meters above sea level, north of Herat (from 3 to 4 September 2009; chap. 8, p. 320-355); our Lynxes are attacked with RPG.

  5. the attempt to capture others insurgents in a village (chap. 10, p. 375-404); the operation fails because the helicopters by mistake pass over the target.

  6. the escort to elements of our Intelligence in Herat (chapter 11, p. 405-414);

  7. the subsequent capture in a hostile village of the insurgents identified by us (ibidem, p. 429-446);

  8. the capture of seven insurgents responsible for IED attacks, one of which had destroyed a Spanish Medevac (25 July 2012, ed.) along Highway One to the SW (chapter 12, p. 447-474).

In the end, the change comes for his team and he can return to Pisa with the usual one Hercules. He sees his wife and daughter again, but the peace does not last long: soon he will be hospitalized for PTSD, deferred stress. He risks having to leave the GOI, but is reinstated as an instructor, the destiny of all "elderly" raiders.

There is also an accurate description of the training section, where ours is still in service, after a long experience in Iraq (2003) Beirut (2006) and precisely Afghanistan (no later than 2012). But the book, although useful for those who want to learn about the raiders, has an added value: the human side.

Whoever he is, Mario Chima is an Italian who often thinks of his wife and daughter, remembers his fellow soldiers and looks at the starry sky, reminding us that he is not a war machine and that soldiers are dreamers.

For my part, I only recommend reviewing the printing layout in case of reprinting: the citations are reported in too small a size and the microscopic footnotes are illegible. Some maps and a summary table of the many abbreviations used in the text and decoded in the note would also be appreciated.

Marco Pasquali