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The "Carabinieri"

Literally the word "Carabiniere" signifies a soldier, on foot or horseback, armed with a type of short rifle known as a "carbine." During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries autonomous regiments of such soldiers came into being in the principal armies of Europe. The Italian "Carabinieri" originally formed an elite corps set up by Victor Emmanuel I, King of Sardinia, "to watch over public security and to assure the preservation of order and the enforcement of the law in the territories of the royal House of Savoy."

Formed in Piemonte in 1814 as a lightly armed, mobile, elite security organization, the Carabinieri fought in the nineteenth century struggle for unification and in both world wars. During the wars for independence of the period known as the Risorgimento, the "Carabinieri" were the bodyguards of the King. In 1861, after the unification of Italy,they acquired a nationwide security function. As an elite army corps it they fought in special combat units during the First and Second World Wars and the African campaigns.

Today the "Carabinieri" still have a double function. In time of war, they form front.-line combat units and have also special duties behind the lines. In time of peace they form a centralized law-enforcement body and also conduct investigations. A special unit called Corazzieri (Cuirassiers) serve as bodyguards to the President of Italy. The uniforms most commonly worn by the "Carabinieri" is noteworthy for its high, stiff, bicorn hat, its tailed coat and the red stripe running down the side of the trousers. The dress uniform of the "Corazzieri" consists of white trousers, a cuirass, a helmet with a hanging horse-tail and high boots.

The "Carabinieri" are noted for their horsemanship. Raimondo and Piero d' Inzeo, who have frequently won prizes at the Olympic Games, are "Carabinieri" officers. The "Carabinieri Carousel" is a riding show which attracts wide attention every spring in Rome. The "Carabinieri" have a band also of international reputation. The "Carabinieri" have lived up at all time to their motto "Paithful Throughout the Centuries". Discipline and devotion to duty are the corps' outstanding characteristics.

The 90,000 member Carabinieri were the best disciplined and most efficient element in the military or internal security structure in 1985. Often referred to as an auxiliary military formation, the Carabinieri in effect were something more than a paramilitary force and something less than an active army organization. The Carabinieri were a centralized police force, but by tradition, organization, and training they were an auxiliary army. In peacetime they functioned as a parallel police force to the State Police even though their personnel were recruited, administered, and paid by the Ministry of Defense. During wartime they would be subject to army control. Carabinieri officers have been trained as army officers and have completed tours of duty in the army. The commander of the Carabinieri has always been an army general.

For police duties in 1985, the Carabinieri were organized into one mechanized brigade with 13 battalions, one airborne battalion, and two cavalry squadrons. These units were deployed in over 5,300 posts throughout all regional and administrative levels of Italian society down to the lowest administrative level, the commune. The mechanized units were equipped with a number of M 47 tanks as well as a large number of APCs, armored cars, and helicopters.

One of the Carabinieri's lesser known responsibilities has been the apprehension of art thieves, who have been particularly active in postwar Italy. The Carabinieri have trained their personnel to deal competently with this problem and have regularly published listings of stolen works of art. They have also attempted to control the illegal export of antiquities to foreign museums. The Carabinieri were responsible for safeguarding military information and for protecting some military installations as well. They also served as the military police for the army, navy, and air force. A select unit, the Cuirassiers, served as the ceremonial bodyguard for the president of Italy.

The Carabinieri tended to be more favorably regarded by the public than other police organizations because of their discipline and reputation for professionalism. The uniform most frequently worn consisted of a high, stiff, early nineteenth century bicorne hat; a dark blue, long, tailored coat; and dark blue trousers with a blue stripe. The Carabinieri also had a modern, army style uniform. The Cuirassiers wore a metal helmet and armor.

As far as the Carabinieri with prevalently military capabilities are concerned, under the Defense white paper "Investing In Security - Transforming the Italian Military" published in early 2006, a reorganization and enhancing of the key capabilities (particularly focused on Command and Control) was undertaken, with the goal of preparing three Regiments (including one airborne) with differentiated operational readiness, capable of conducting longterm operations in continuity with a maximum of 1200 men and women in three task-organized contingents, with functions that include MSU (Military Specialized Units) and Military Police.

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Page last modified: 21-02-2013 19:20:16 ZULU