Tribute (due) to the 80th "Roma" infantry who takes leave with honor

(To Gianluca Celentano)

Well, yes, we are now used to witnessing the closure of the barracks and perhaps even a little to burying the long history of the departments, a phenomenon which however does not erase the memories. It also happened to an exceptional training department located in Lazio, the80th Rome infantry regiment and its motto: “In the name of Rome”.

I couldn't help but dedicate a few lines to the Lolli Ghetti barracks located in Cassino in via Vaglie, the first department of the Army which, at the age of 17, worried and lost, saw me cross the carriage road to join the extended-stay volunteers. The memories are very vivid as are the dreams and expectations of all of us volunteers of '88.


The department was originally formed in 1884 in Rome as a regiment part of the brigade Roma subsequently being decorated in 1920 with the Bronze Medal for Military Valor for having daringly opposed the enemy on the Piave. In 1939 he passed under the "Pasubio" infantry division which saw him employed on the Russian front until 43, suffering enormous losses which earned him two Gold Medals for Military Valour.

In '58 the80th Rome infantry it transformed from an operational department into a training one, moving to Orvieto as a recruit training department and, from 1976 it moved to one of the most modern structures of the armed force, in Cassino. Originally the80th Rome infantry battalion it was a recruit training battalion, then, in the 80s, only volunteers and former prison officers were trained in the two structures separated by an enormous and long parade ground. As early as 88, however, the formation of the barracks was reserved for the army alone and subsequently, in September 92, it was reconstituted, going from battalion to 80th "Roma" infantry regiment, one of the well-known RAV venues.

3rd “Bondone” regiment

For those who are tied to traditions, the news of the closure will be welcomed with a certain sadness, but the reality is different. We have always kept the physiological development of F.A. under observation, even with a critical eye. towards the new challenges that we have seen are evolving very quickly. For this reason, the 3rd "Bondone" regiment has arrived at the Lolli Ghetti barracks, a specialized army unit in the field of Remotely piloted aircraft (APR)”, drones, a mandatory step to implement the operations of the Armed Forces. It took place last December 15th in the presence of the highest city authorities and the gen. c. to. Carlo Lamanna, commander of the Army's training, specialization and doctrine, and Gen. b. Roberto Vergori, commander of the Army Non-Official School to which the 80th depends, the transfer of function of the via Vaglie department. Although the last swearing-in of the 420 initial volunteers took place in September, it has been assured that there will be no repercussions for the social and commercial fabric of Cassino.

Mayor Enzo Salera commented to “We are really happy with this relaunch by the Italian Army with respect to our territory and, thanks to this joint work done in recent years, there will be further development for our city of Cassino. Unfortunately, in recent days the news had spread that the 80th 'Roma' volunteer training regiment would be closed. If it had happened without any other type of investment, it would have been an impoverishment of our city. But we have known for some time that this was not the case, and today the official announcement finally arrived."

The VFP experiment

We were many young people who took turns at 80 every month to pursue dreams and expectations by virtue of the law of December 24, 1986 n. 958. And I was there too in April '88. In that period the "VFP" - volunteers on prolonged standstill - had become the heirs of the "VTO" - the volunteer technical operators successors of the ACS – attracted by what proved to be an army experiment, never confirmed, on volunteers to be trained professionally instead of the draft. In the classrooms and on the square they kept repeating: it is you who wanted to come or you will not be considered as conscripts, but with more responsibility. The result for the vast majority of volunteers was a cold shower of acquittal, disappointment and demotivation. In fact, the ways to join the Army between the end of the '80s and the beginning of the '90s were the most appropriate ones: the Military Academy of Modena, the AS school or the AUC. Everyone knew little about VFP and their treatment, even in the departments, and convincing ourselves of what they told us during the weeks in Cassino was certainly not easy. In any case, in a few departments the VFPs, as some colleagues I met later confirmed to me, had the right relevance.

The fact is that few of us passed as sergeants and even fewer sergeants majors in Spe, some of us managed to pass into the Carabinieri and State Police, some else into GdF, but the bulk of the platoons completed the arrest with a profound sense of injustice. Even the reservations of places foreseen for leave was a little-known topic. I remember the indignation of an adjutant marshal, representative of the CoCeR, who told me: with the training contract you have stability at the end of one or two years, here they dismiss you without demerit. In short, the truth was that there was very little difference between us and the conscripts.

88 to 80th

There were a sergeant major with a mustache who shouted a lot, but was a good person, and several second lieutenants as platoon commanders. The company commander, Captain Palmieri was a calm person as was the battalion commander, T. with Zappullo.

We were made up of infantry corporals and conscript corporals. Only they slept in the single cots and I still remember that above me I had a student from Gorizia and in the cot next to me Franco - first and last name -, a young man who lived in Formia.

I remember someone else, but not their names, except Salvatore B. a young Sicilian but moved to Cecina. He had a great sense of humor and could make even the most uptight second lieutenant laugh. One shower a week was the rule, but only with time did I understand that perhaps there were some loopholes, but then I was a little too afraid of getting caught. I wasn't shackled and... So in the bathrooms we washed ourselves in pieces and the doors to the bathrooms were strictly without keys and like saloons.

The most widespread and shouted exclamations in the air were: young e commands!

I remember the photographer who sold us hundreds of photos in uniform, often together with very cute Labrador puppies, the endless queues at the commissary to call home and the first armed service. We had the classic 4 cages with 32 7,62 cal bullets in the pouches and the legendary M1 Garand with the authorization to fire in the air and then on the target if the threat advanced without being recognised. With these rules of engagement it was a little difficult for us to combine the reality of military life with deliveries, there was a certain concern in case we had to travel around to arm.

Ending up in the corvée canteen was almost a punishment and few voluntarily aspired to that service. One morning, an officer said: "Young! There is a helicopter to be moved to the land behind the barracks, who is available?” I, like others, immediately raised our right hand, to demonstrate our willingness but also because it promised a certain effectiveness. Well, we ended up in the canteen cleaning the tables and washing the floors.

I remember a volunteer from Sardinia who during the roll call, where you stand at attention and raise your right arm, responded with a strong dialect cadence: commmandiii. I can imagine the laughter we all held.

For the first few weeks we couldn't leave the 80th, it was probably used to break away from civilized habits and make us get to know each other.

The counterpoint in the evening included the scbt (then the olive green), but surprisingly some corporal ordered to put us in drop, then in overalls and then again in scbt in 5 minutes. We had to take turns presenting our strength, an activity which included: introducing yourself with your name, surname, rank (vfp), remembering the numbers of those present, effective and available on your team. I can imagine the tests we went through to avoid getting stuck when we knew it was our turn.

Basque art was truly an art. The classic "Italian pizzas" supplied were enormous and most people shod them in the back and placed them in front. Instead it was the opposite; anyone understood from this detail that you were a recruit.

Then there was the cube, but I must say that mine was almost always acceptable, who knows why. One of the most evocative memories was the oath taken in May '88 in the city of Cassino, after many hard days of formal training. Without telling me, my mother had come to see me and from the frame - I was quite far back - I was able to see her unmistakable smile.

What can I say, if we are what we are today, perhaps it is also thanks to80th Rome infantry and its commanders.