Southern Italy’s Regions have a troubled history: especially after the Unity of 1861, reached under the rule of the House of Savoy . The Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, Campania and Sicily, (as well as Sardinia) populations has always been very attached to their rural traditions. Religion, along with the family and the land were the pivot around which turned the social life of these underdeveloped regions. The only wealth was in the hands of a few “powerful men” which condemned the rest of the population to poverty and subservience to real feudal lords. Representatives of the new Kingdom of Italy attempted to introduce new rules, trying to change these bad habits, but the only thing they got was an increasing splitting between them and the poor peasants.

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In this context it developed a parallel criminal activity related to “banditry” problems that had marked the Southern Italian history in past centuries. This preamble explains, in short, why even today, Southern Italy is the basis of main criminal organizations that have achieved popularity all over the world: Mafia, ‘Ndrangheta, Camorra, the Sacra Corona Unita and the Anonima Sarda. Already, during the Kingdom of Italy, the main tool that affirmed the State’s presence on the territory were the political administrative bodies, but also the military, especially the Royal Carabinieri Corps.

From the end of XIX century onwards many Carabinieri lost their lives in the name of the King in a wasted struggle, where criminals were supported of the entire population, while the police were hated and thwarted at every attempt to restore legality.

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Today things have changed for the worse: Mafia, ‘ Ndrangheta and Camorra have extended their tentacles everywhere, tightening ties with international terrorism. The Italian Government continues to waste economic resources without getting anything. Men like Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were victims of a policy which – in many cases – has formed bonds of interest with these criminals. The only certainty is the presence of the Law Enforcement which have developed new tactics and investigative methods to deal with this epidemic of evil.

GIS and NOCS: Italy's Law Enforcement Counterterrorism Units

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In the 1970s the Carabinieri High Command formed the so-called “squadriglie” (Squadron or patrols) which had the task of countering the ‘ndrangheta within regional boundaries by attacking the hubs. The Calabrian landscape is characterized by mountains covered with dense vegetation (Sila and Aspromonte) very difficult to penetrate. Here, nature offers an impenetrable safe haven to the criminals who often take refuge in caves or hidden rural houses. The Aspromonte was the favorite kidnappers hiding place who here brought their victims awaiting ransom.

From July 1st, 1991 the Carabinieri Operational Group Calabria included all “squadriglie” in the 1st  Air Assault Squadron Cacciatori di Calabria with its Operative Logistic Base (Base Logistica Operativa – B.L.O.) in Vibo Valentia’s airport “Luigi Razza“. Here,  the 8th Carabinieri Helicopters Squadron provide operators with outstanding mobility throughout the region.

The Calabria’s Hunters are distinguished from other Carabinieri’s patrol whilst proudly wearing a bright red beret with traditional silver beret’s flame badge

The Cacciatori’s Squadron is composed of two platoons from which depend on 15 “squadriglie”, each with six operators. Every patrol has some specialists including a sniper team and a Carabiniere qualified for first aid. Obviously the features of the wild landscape require special skills: all soldiers are superior patrolmen, many have qualified as rock climbers or mountain rescuers. In addition, operators work in perfect symbiosis with helicopters and know all the procedures related to the combat with the aircraft (Multirole Helicopter AB412 and AB206 A109). The Cacciatori’s team carry out day and night infiltration near suspicious targets, establishing Observation Posts to follow the criminals’ movements. They patrol large areas of ground in search of hiding places or any weapons or drug deposits.

Patrol the Aspromonte mountains is very difficult and dangerous
Patrol the Aspromonte mountains is very difficult and dangerous

The “selection phase” is very hard and the course has some of the same characteristics as the one attended by the Tuscania Paratroopers Battalion (the first course in 1991 was held at the Vannucci barracks in Livorno). Today, the course lasts seven weeks, part of which in Livorno and the second in Vibo Valentia. The training ends with a 48-hour exercise in which a team must infiltrate the Aspromonte mountains and catch a dangerous fugitive.

On September 1st, 1993, in view of the success of this unit, the Carabinieri’s High Command, decided to establish the Cacciatori di Sardegna with the same duties as their colleagues in Calabria.

 

Photo: Press Office – Arma dei Carabineri