The lieutenant's tales: "Sergeant Hartman" (first part)

(To Gianluca Celentano)

Particularly during the economic boom of the 80s, many young people called up for military service saw an interruption in the professional expectations that the economy of the period guaranteed. However, for just as many, the military year represented a fundamental moral duty, while for another slice of boys it was an opportunity from which to draw professional skills.

The fact is that in 143 years of compulsory military service, the contribution to the administration of the FA by conscripts has allowed the entire complex defense structure to function at full capacity. A lieutenant, retired for over twenty years, is sure of this, and I will henceforth refer to him by his name: "Filippo".

I could describe it as a non-commissioned diplomat of the Transmission Force in charge of the Radio Bridges, a "Pontista". Over the course of his career he has shown himself capable, with the necessary tightrope skills, of surviving in the environment of that Army that most people remember. Thoughtful and curious, always smiling, he always has a joke ready.

In six serialized stories he will keep us company by remembering how people worked in those days... Outdated?

The exercise

Better known as "field" (today mission) was a period of about fifteen days where you put yourself to the test, given the lack of any comfort and custom, immersed in a hierarchical context where you just had to obey.

The experience, in its essence, reconstructed a military context of war where, based on where you were assigned, you were evaluated in tests, skills or in the ease with which you carried out the leopard step under a barbed wire a few centimeters from the ground immersed in the mud (remember that the camouflages supplied were only two).

Filippo, a brilliant broadcasting lieutenant gifted with the verve typical of the natives of Tuscia Viterbese, recalls one in which the protagonists were American soldiers...

Il nodal center of the area

It was the 80s and the battalion-level broadcast department had been activated for a field on the agenda on the Venetian plain. On the slopes of the Carnic Pre-Alps on the border between Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto and in front of the US base at Aviano, the nodal center of the area. Here the Iveco ACL75 and the Fiat ACM52 had the shelter with PR5 and MH-191 radio systems.

Sometimes - says Filippo, then chief marshal - the gigantic Lockheed C-5 Galaxy strategic airlifters passed overhead.

One morning the marshal's team saw American transmitters arrive and, in an orderly manner, positioned themselves about 200 meters from their Italian colleagues. They came with three vehicles, AMC and Dodge trucks and a PU-618/U generator set (needed to power the radio systems). The generator was identical to the one used a few years earlier by the transmission units of the Italian Army. Their vehicles were parked in the same direction they had come.

In that very demanding exercise full of equipment and connections, the marshal was in the company of an equally prepared peer who, observing how the American trucks were positioned, exclaimed: from that position if it rains they don't come out anymore! Then the rain came and so it was…

The inflexible sergeant of the US Army

By mutual agreement, our two marshals who own the activities (Filippo and his partner) of the nodal center they went to introduce themselves to the highest rank of the USA team. They found one a la "Hartman" from Full Metal Jacket: an iron sergeant who admonishes you with a look, the classic person with whom you hope not to share anything, especially a "field".

The American NCO spoke little Italian, but enough to understand each other with the Italian team and create synergy.

Philip says: “As we spoke with him, his servicemen worked setting up cables (or "winds" in broadcast terminology) to raise a long antenna mast.

The sergeant noticed that his men were talking to each other and had stopped in front of a picket.

Realizing that something was wrong, he went to see and realized that…”

Read: The lieutenant's tales: "Sergeant Hartman" (second part)

Photo: author