Some clarifications regarding the article on COFS

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)
29/09/21

As we anticipated, our writings have attracted some criticism. Few indeed and pretentious.

We have been reprimanded that we were poorly informedi, which did not correspond to the truth that the transformation of the 185th and 4th had taken place, especially at the beginning, with methods and procedures that were nothing short of "spicciative"; that we should have mentioned everything the training process in common that acquirers, rangers and raiders practice that, like the NIF and the COMFOSE, COFS also had (and has) non-raider commanders and that, ultimately, not having the writers no military training and experience we shouldn't have "afforded" to publish so much article.

These observations provide us with the opportunity to make other clarifications which, however, go in the opposite direction to the corrections requested.

Before publishing any writing we inform ourselves, without relying on the impressions of individuals or partisan opinions, but also requiring to view official documents and testimonies that make the information as objective as possible.

Only when we have the reasonable certainty of the correctness of the information in our possession do we publish them, also because the image and reliability of the magazine and therefore also our reputation which we do not hide, we care a lot about.

Coming therefore to the criticisms leveled about the transformation of the alpine paratroopers regiment Monte Cervino and of the 185th Parachute Artillery Regiment in something different we have collected the following information that can be proven by official documentation and from who, with honesty, can testify what happened in the past.

The 4th Alpine Parachute Regiment and the 185th Regiment. Paratrooper artillery have always been conventional units, one of infantry and the other of artillery. They have never conducted unconventional activities, neither in training nor in real operations.

Their transformation began in 2002 with specific courses held in the training department (RAFOS) of the 9th regiment Col Moschin which, at the time, was the only department of the Army that ran courses for Special forces.

The so-called "specific" courses lasted 6/8 weeks and were aimed at an audience of about 40 soldiers at a time. In essence, their program was a concentrate of what is now the OBOS course whose reference is the combat parachute patrol with the execution of the final tactical acts of the "coup" and "ambush". During the course then it was not given no notion about the execution of Direct Actions, Special Reconnaissance and Military Assistance nor were the exclusively national tasks of the raiders dealt with.

Occasionally, always from the training department of the 9th regiment, amphibious courses were held for the personnel of the two regiments. Courses lasting 4 weeks during which the elementary and basic notions were taught to be able to move in the surface aquatic environment.

Already in 2004, as part of the Initial Training Unit (NIF) of COMFOSE (based in Florence), there had been the initiative to try to modify the regulatory system of the various qualifications / patents to provide for first-level raiders (i.e. the current creak, acquirers e operators of the Helicopter Department for Special Operations) that would have been called "raider ranger", "raider acquirer" etc ... and rename "second level raiders" those who had always been raiders. Fortunately, this "original" thought has never seen the day, despite the notes to that effect forwarded to the Army Staff.

We leave to the reader the interpretation of the motivation that, since then, pushed to try to standardize, flatten, homogenize, conglomerate everyone under the umbrella of the "raider" ... and if the reader does not succeed at the first attempt, we provide the help of the case informing him that, precisely in 2004, an additional indemnity of 650 euros gross had been proposed which would have had to revise, in an improved sense, the economic treatment of soldiers in possession of the incursor's license.

In 2005, General Fraticelli, with a formal letter to the then head of SMD, Admiral Di Paola, asserted that the 4th and 185th were fully ready and “combat ready” in order to be included in the ranks of the FS.

However, many aspects do not come back to us, among which we will mention only a few: how is it possible to transform an absolutely conventional ward into a FS ward with mass courses that, combined with each other, do not exceed 10/12 weeks? How was it possible to make the approximately 1200 soldiers who make up the two departments attend these courses (about 700 of the 4th and about 500 of the 185th) in just three years by carrying out all the courses at the Nono (given that General Fraticelli demanded that the two departments be fully ready and not just parts of the same); beyond the troop, where did the officers and non-commissioned officers learn to think, plan, act, use media in an unconventional way? And we would have many other questions to which no has, again, provided us with comprehensive answers during our research.

But what amazes us even more is the use that these departments have been made over time, right from 2005, the year in which, as General Fraticelli asserted, these two units should have been "combat ready" as Forces Special and, therefore, should have been used only in such contexts.

In Afghanistan, in 2008, both the 4th and the 185th went to form the Task Force Surobi detecting and subsequently being detected by units very conventional (the Task Force Lafayette French), depending conventionally by RC Capital and conducting highly conventional businesses.

Also in Afghanistan, the 185th set up the Task Force Victor, also extremely conventional unit employed by the commander of RC West (TF Victor it had no connection with ISAF SOF Command - the only command responsible for the conduct of OS in Afghanistan - nor, much less, with the COFS). Then in 2014 ISAF became Resolute Support Mission, i.e. when the kinetic phase of the campaign is over and when NATO troops (including Special Forces) have been re-tasked to carry out security force assistance "behind the wires" or exclusively within the training fields, the 4th has supplanted the Nono driving what was the TF 45 ... even this use seemed very subdued.

Both departments have been suppliers for years and years "Close protection team" of almost all the Italian brigades employed in the theater, a task which, if not conducted in particular environments and for the benefit of completely exceptional personalities, does not reveal any "specialty". Especially since what 185th and 4th ranks are now carried out by teams drawn from all the army brigades.

Even the use in Iraq, in the operation Prima Parthica, of the 185th from 2016 to 2018, so for 2 years, it was very conventional, having the department proceeded to supply a very small one task force, inserted in the "conventional" national contingent, which was involved in the training of Iraqi forces. As in Afghanistan, this task force had no connection with the special forces of the anti-ISIS coalition or, at the national level, with the COFS and therefore could not conduct any tasks assigned to the Special Forces.

Finally, for years, the 185th has provided, and surprisingly continues to provide even today despite inclusion in the animal 2 of the FS, a Task Unit that deals with Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), activities which are also very conventional and not related to the tasks of the Special Forces in the context of the NATO operation in Kosovo. Lately there is also talk of some element of the 185 ° in Niger who, always "Behind the wires" performs tasks of security force assistance.

The only uses "in tune" in the context of Special Operations (we emphasize "in the scope") that these two departments have had a place in the support offered to TF 45 from 2006 to 2014 and in some haggard groups and teams which was docked in support of TF 44 in Iraq from 2018 onwards.

The use of departments now defined which ones Tier 2 of the FS, used in recent years, more or less arbitrarily, to perform tactical functions concerning forces conventional, such as the ISR and the close protections teams for the army brigades, it suggests that these units are more similar to the conventional ones and possibly can be oriented, when necessary, to support the units Tier 1. Moreover, this evident reality makes it extremely difficult to plead at the same time for an increase in their indemnity which one would even like to bring back to that of raider.

Above all, the use of departments now defined of Tier 2 of the FS in activities which, as we have proved, are absolutely conventional, it makes it extremely difficult to plead at the same time for an increase in their allowance which one would even like to bring back to that of the Incursori.

As for the now worn and repetitive type of observation, although we cannot agree that at the top of the COFS there was a staff without a raider's license and without a long, in-depth and rich experience in command of Special forces in operations and in garrison, at least we can certify that it is the Command was born under the guidance of a raider among the most famous on the national scene (General Marco Bertolini) and that the various commanders who have succeeded each other have been able to count on a real raiders department (the COFS in fact, founded as such) which among its ranks counted an absolute majority of raiding officers, especially in the key roles of its general staff. The same was not replicated instead either to the NIF of the COMFOSE, which of raiders in decisive or managerial roles he has never seen nor, later, COMFOSE itself, composed of an overwhelming superiority of not raiders (although it is currently headed by General Addis, former commander of the Nono).

We do not understand how the COMFOSE may have been classified as a "raiders department" providing, consequently, the payment of the specific indemnity from raider to its members. This detail, to be verified by documents, would in fact be very difficult to justify even just counting the number of raiders (probably no more than the fingers of either hand) serving within the Camp Darby enclosure. Perhaps, even this strange peculiarity should be deepened, perhaps dedicating a future article to it, since the issue of allowances always arouses attention and is also under discussion at the political level.

As regards the now constant observation about the common training path that should characterize raiders, acquirers e creak, as we have already pointed out in the article concerning the clarifications on indemnities, the formation of the units of Special forces of the Army foresees only one phase in common which is the initial one of the OBOS course lasting 12 weeks (iter that represents little more than a patrol course during which the learning subjects are represented by topography, individual combat training and weapons. The reference objective of the course, in fact, is the combat parachute patrol with the execution of the final tactical acts of the "coup de hand" and "ambush").

The rest of the training is subsequently conducted in the departments to which they belong and leads to the achievement of different patents / qualifications both formally and substantially, otherwise it would be absurd, controversial and misleading to assign them different names. In this regard, we also express our disappointment at the decision, taken in 2015, to extend indiscriminately to the departments creak e acquirers the skydiving qualification with the Free Fall Technique (TCL) as a mandatory step for their basic training. We are the only ones in the world to have this peculiarity. In no department Animal 2 - and often not even in the most famous Animal 1 - they are all equally qualified for this type of launch and, not being virtuous in the use of forces with this technique (never used in operations by the Italian armed forces), we wonder what prompted this decision which then, among other things, it is unsustainable considering the scarce number of transport aircraft that the Italian Air Force has at its disposal.

It will not be to try to have all the arguments to advocate an increase in compensation in the same way as that from raider (since the raiders always they are all TCL qualified, indeed, the TCL course was born, more than half a century ago, to fill an operational need of the Nono)?

Moreover, we insist that continuing to maintain that the training procedures are the same, as well as mystify the reality, disqualifies these departments Tier 2 and instead they should aim to characterize and distinguish themselves through both a typical training and a particular use, instead of always trying to assimilate their essence to that of raiders.

Finally, it's true, we have no military training, nor do we have any battlefield experience. We are just "simple" journalists. Nando Martellini made us dream in 1982, yet he never kicked a ball and never worked as a coach or manager of a football team. Giulio Douhet has never shot down enemy aircraft in the skies of Italy and never obtained a pilot's license, however he is very famous for his theory of aerial power which still today exerts a great influence on anyone interested in the use of the aerial instrument and continues to be the subject of studies in the aeronautical-military field.

And so we, without wanting to even remotely compare ourselves to these two great characters, are journalists and disseminators and we have the ambition to be connoisseurs and scholars of the military environment by publishing referenced and objective writings without boasting any operational experience in the field that, moreover, it is not the patrimony of almost all the chroniclers of the sector, not even the most famous and well-known.

In this regard, taking into account the high number of views that all our articles on Special Forces, starting with those on bonuses, have totaled and from the countless and, above all, majority expressions of applause and appreciation that they aroused, we will continue to publish and stimulate any discussion on the subject, as long as it is objective, proven and authoritative.

Photo: Italian Army