Italian parachute regiment trains at home of Sky Soldiers

NCOs Rosario Fazzone (left) and Simone Rafaelli of 186th Parachute Regiment, Folgore Brigade, monitor operations during Command Post Exercise training at the Vicenza Mission Training Complex on Caserma Ederle Jan. 29, 2013. The paratroopers, stationed in Pisa and Livorno, traveled to Caserma Ederle to conduct a regimental level Command Post Exercise, or CPX. The rotation was the latest in an ongoing series of joint trainings and exchanges with their airborne partners, the Sky Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

VICENZA, Italy - Approximately 60 Italian parachutists of the 186th Regiment, Folgore Brigade, arrived on Caserma Ederle Jan. 14 for a regimental level Command Post Exercise, or CPX.

The regiment's advance party began setting up its operating environment Jan. 15-18 and the main body arrived Jan. 21 to begin classroom instruction that continued Jan. 22-25. The CPX itself took place Jan. 27-30 and was to be followed by an after action review Jan. 31.

In the course of the two weeks of training in the Vicenza Mission Training Complex, the 186th soldiers simulated a Wide Area Security mission to stabilize a rear area, ensure ground routes remained open and secure in the hypothetical area of operations, and undertake host nation support roles as they presented themselves.

While the regiment's use of the training center is is not out of the ordinary, this particular CPX came together quickly, said VMTC officials.

"This is something the regiment requested," said VMTC chief James Beverly. "We actually put it together in less than 30 days."

It was important for the regiment to train in a hybrid environment, said Lt. Col. Sergio Cardea, G-3 of the Folgore Brigade, and a 20-year airborne veteran who acted as the head of the HICON, or higher command control, playing the role of the brigade in the exercise.

"It is exactly as with the other regiment last October," said Cardea, referring to similar scenario training last fall in which the Folgore Brigade headquarters section participated as part of Joint Multinational Training Center's Saber Junction exercise.

"Just like last time, we had mission command program come down from Germany to teach the science portion," said VMTC simulation specialist Paul Toombs. "The biggest difference is that last time the HICON was in Germany. This time we got with Colonel McDonald (Lt. Col. Brian McDonald, 173rd ABCT rear detachment commander) and got some of his guys to do a joint HICON, playing various roles. All the command functions are coming down from the HICON here. It was completely internal."

The 186th parachutists have trained on Caserma Ederle before, said Cardea.

"We did a similar exercise in 2010 and the 186th was involved. This particular training at the moment is not tied to deployment, it is general training," he said.

But deployment is a regular part of the brigade's battle rhythm, having deployed to Afghanistan as recently as 2011, as is building its partnership with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team's Sky Soldiers, who are stationed at Caserma Ederle.

"We have many exchanges with the 173rd in many activities. For instance, this is a combined activity, we are all working together," Cardea said.

Among the scenarios the paratroopers undertook were planning and executing logistical tasks, managing various incidents, including TIC, or troops in contact, and managing the flow of casualties.

"This is a CPX," said 186th Regiment Commanader, Col. Roberto Angius. "We have the opportunity to have here an exchange of experience, from the U.S. Soldiers to us, but also from us to them, from experience of other theaters. It is especially Afghanistan now, but other theaters as well."

One major focus is becoming familiar with variations in behavior, both of friendly forces and of native populations, said Angius, who has personally served abroad in Lebanon, Somalia and Kosovo in the course of his career. The Folgore Brigade's historical experience has made them knowledgeable regarding the Mediterranean cultural area, including the Arabic cultural zone of North Africa, he said.

"Each nation is different. It's important in this kind of operation. It is interesting to know their experience, perhaps in Central America. It's important to put together these experiences," said Angius.

"We are not in international context like in a classical war; the problem is cultural. For this particular reason every nation is different, every nation has a different approach to the same reality, therefore it is important among different nations to see the approach each may have and determine which one is the best," he said.

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