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The Paracadutisti - Parachute Troops

The Parachute Corps, which has become an essential component of all modern armies, was formed in Italy just over thirty years ago. The first divisions were formed in Tripolitania in 1938 and consisted of volunteers from garrison troops in Libya, at that time an Italian colony, with officers and N.C.O.'s drawn from home units. The first training school for parachute troops was opened at Castel Benito (Tripoli), the course being exceptionally difficult in view of the special missions that would have to be carried out in the event of war. Two battalions were created, initially known as "airborne infantry", and they performed very well from the beginning of World War II, Unfortunately, the heavy casualties sustained as a result of their being attached to normal infantry regiments resulted in both these battalions being decimated before they could be used as parachute units.

However, during the period in question, a second training school had been opened at 'Tarquinia (Viterbo), on the mainland, where volunteers from various branches of the Army were accepted. Troops trained at Tarquinia formed two battalions, one of infantry, the other of Carabinieri. New units quickly followed, so that, by September 1941, the "Folgore" (Lightning) Parachute Division was created, to be followed a year later by the "Nembo" (Nimbus) Division. At the same time, other special units were being trained, including parachutists specializing in sabotage, airborne troops drawn from the Italian Air Porce, plus the "San Marco" Battalion belonging to the Italian Navy. The heavy demands of war soon meant that the Tarquinia School could no longer provide sufficient trained men, and a new training camp was opened in the city of Viterbo, of sufficient size to accept a larger number of volunteers.

Although the Parachute Brigade is the youngest of the Army branches, it has a past that is rich in examples of great valor, few Italians will forget the operations of the "Polgore" Division in North Africa, for its deeds aroused the admiration of Italy's ally and the recognition of her adversaries. Two airborne regiments (186 and 187) and one artillery regiment (185) belonging to this Division, received several decorations for bravery.

During the war of liberation, traditions were maintained by the "Nembo" Division, which eventually became the "Fougore" Combat Group, consisting of the "Nembo" infantry regiment, and the "San Marco" Battalion (Italian Navy). This group brought new glory to the parachute corps, taking part in numerous battles from the Volturno to the gates of Bologna. In 1947, when the Italian Army began its post-war reorganization, the headquarters Of the Parachute Corps were in Rome.

In 1949, these headquarters were transferred to Viterbo, to the very barracks that had housed the "Nembo" Division. Later, they were again transferred, this time to the present quarters at Pisa and Leghorn, where modern and functional training and living conditions are provided.

Recruits for the parachute Regiments are obtained through volunteers, who are subjected to a very rigid medical examination, Once a volunteer bas demonstrated that he possesses the necessary qualities, he is sent to an initial course of physical training and gymnastics. From these, he graduates to lectures and practical demonstrations in the use of the parachute, learning how to automatically control descent, land correctly, etc.

Real airborne training begins with exercises on actual jumping position prior to leaving the aircraft and the manner in which violent tugs can be avoided as the parachute opens. This is followed by training in the use of the harness to guide descent, and how to land. Exercises are repeated time and time again until all movements are completely automatic, At this stage the recruit is expected to make practice jumps from a tower about 50 feet high; he thus obtains experience of actual jumping conditions and is able to carry out those movements which he will have to do when dropping from an aircraft.

This initial phase is followed by another medical examination, and the successful trainee then begins the second stage, during which he first makes individual jumps and then descends in a group. In the concluding stage, he is dropped with full equipment and given training in jumping at night. The brevet is awarded after six jumps three normal and three special (1 with full equipment, 1 at night, and 1 entailing a guided descent into a small target area).

Once they have been awarded their brevet, parachute troops begin operational training, under conditions that roughly correspond to those expected in wartime. The majority of these jumps are made at night, for darkness provides a cover under which troops can escape the vigilance of the enemy. Using arms dropped to them by parachute and the heavy weapons with which infantry is equipped, parachutists are invaluable for penetrating behind enemy lines, disrupting communications, blocking reinforcements, etc. This, of course, is their chief task. Deep into enemy territory with limited quantities and types of weapons, they generally fight a numerically superior adversary. They must operate with the utmost speed in order to surprise the enemy and conclude their mission before a proper defense can be organized.

Parachute troops are trained to act on their own initiative, with speed and decision. They are constantly subjected to hard physical training that develops their reactions, enables them to undergo severe fatigue and hardships, and in general gives them complete confidence in themselves and their companions. Special training is also given in reading maps, using foreign weapons, handling explosives, driving all types of vehicles, hand-to-hand combat; all are abilities with which they must be familiar because of the special tasks assigned to them. Technically speaking, parachute troops may be used for creating small bridgeheads prior to sea-borne invasion and landings, occupation of key positions, attacks on enemy reserves, sabotage, collection of information concerning enemy movements, and assistance to guerrilla groups.

Very often such troops are required to carry out missions in small groups, or even individually, in unfamiliar territory, where they must immediately recognize, destroy or capture special targets or objectives. Once on the ground, parachute troops are of ten called upon to face and overcome unexpected situations that are extremely difficult and dangerous. This is the reason for their detailed training and the individual attention that is given to them, Highly qualified instructors provide them with expert knowledge of hand-to-hand fighting, the technique of survival, ability and precision in the use of a wide variety of weapons, and they are taught how to react to the unexpected with lightning speed. Trained as they are, parachute troops are an elite, perfectly aware of the science of modern warfare, physically fit, with excellent morale, They are a special corps that can guarantee a sound defense against any attempt on security and peace.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:00:46 ZULU