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    The 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino”

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    The 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino” (4th Alpini Paratroopers Regiment “Monte Cervino”) is one of the elite special forces of the Italian army and it is specialised in mountain combat.

    History of the Monte Cervino

    The 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino” has its roots in the 4th Alpini Paratroopers Regiment, which was established in 1882. The regiment consisted of the Battalions “Val Pellice”, “Val Chisone” and “Val Brenta”. Some years later, these were all replaced by “Pinerolo”, “Ivrea”, and “Aosta” and, in 1889, Battalion “Susa” joined the regiment.

    The Alpini Battalion “Monte Cervino” was established in 1915 and took part in the First World War. During the war, the battalion had the chance to show its skills and bravery, especially during the battles on Monte Pasubio in 1916, and Monte Vodice, in 1917.

    In 1919, when the war was over, the unit was dismantled, until 1940.

    Second World War

    The unit came back to life in 1940 as Battaglione Sciatori “Monte Cervino” (Skiers Battalion “Monte Cervino”). The unit took part in the fight in Albania against Greece. Thanks to its valour and actions, the battalion received the Italian highest military order, which was the Gold Medal of Military Valor.

    On the 13th of January 1942, the Italian government decided to send the Alpini battalion to the Soviet front for the first time. There, the Italian unit gained the respect of the Soviets, and it received the name “Satanas bjieli”, which means “White devils”.

    The 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino”
    Members of the battalion ‘Monte Cervino’ in Ukraine, in December 1942.

    A year later, on the 12th of January 1943, the Soviet troops defeat the battalion. When the survivors managed to go back to Italy, they all received the Gold Medal of Military Valor.

    The Cold War

    On the 1st of April 1964, the High Command of the Italian Army established the Alpini Paratroopers Platoon, located at Caserma “Cadorna” in Bolzano.

    The platoon took on the name “Monte Cervino” on the 1st of January 1990, to honour the Battaglione Sciatori “Monte Cervino”.

    In 1996, the platoon turned into a battalion, and in 1999 it officially acquired the status of “Ranger”, becoming Battaglione Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino” (Ranger).

    It is only on the 25th of September 2004 that the Italian Army established the 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino”, mainly based on its only battalion.

    In 2011, its headquarters were moved to Caserma “Duca”, in Montorio Veronese, close to Verona.

    Structure of the 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino”

    The number of soldiers part of the Monte Cervino is around 150.

    The regiment consists of:

    • Command, which handles the personnel, administration, organisation, and logistics.
    • Command and Logistic Support Unit (Compagnia Comando e Supporto Logistico)
    • Training Unit (Compagnia Corsi), which focuses on training the rangers and the personnel
    • Ranger Battalion, which consists of three units: the 1a Compagnia (1st Unit), also called “Satanas bjieli” (White devils), to honour the Battalion Monte Cervino, the 2a Compagnia (2nd Unit), the so-called “Angeli neri” (Black Angels), and the 80a Compagnia (80th Unit), also called “Lupi della Steppa” (Wolves of the Steppe).

    Within this battalion, there is also a platoon specialised in reconnaissance.

    The Monte Cervino is employed by the Army Special Forces Command (COMFOSE – Comando delle Forze Speciali dell’Esercito).

    Alongside the Monte Cervino, there are other special forces units, such as:

    • 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”
    • 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment “Folgore”
    • 28th Regiment Pavia
    Organisational chart of COMFOSE

    However, at the operational level, the Alpini regiment is under the Joint Special Forces Operations Command (COFS – Comando interforze per le operazioni delle Forze speciali).

    The other units which are part of the COFS are:

    • 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin” (Army)
    • Operational Raiders Group (GOI – Gruppo Operativo Incursori) (Navy)
    • 17th Raiders Wing (Air Force)
    • Special Intervention Group (GIS – Gruppo di Intervento Speciale) (Carabinieri)
    • 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment “Folgore” (Army)
    Organisational chart of COFS

    Responsibilities

    The 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino” is the only unit in Italy which has acquired the “Ranger” title.

    The Monte Cervino is the only unit specialised in mountain and arctic environments and it is also able to join its alpine and parachuting skills.

    The 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino”
    Monte Cervino soldier

    Its main tasks are:

    • Close protection
    • Combat search and rescue
    • Developing sniper skills in mountainous areas
    • Direct action
    • Joint Rapid Response Force
    • Mountain warfare
    • Planning and conducting non-combatant evacuations operations (NEO)
    • Support of local authorities in an adverse environment
    • Training advisor for foreign units, such as the Afghan one

    Training

    The process to become a ranger of the 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino” is harsh and long.

    In the first four weeks, the candidates have to go through physical and psychological tests. These weeks of tests take place with the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin” and the 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment “Folgore”.

    After this selection phase, the recruits have to face a four-week basic course of military parachuting at the Centro Addestramento Paracadutisti della Brigata Paracadutisti Folgore (CAPAR), in Pisa.

    The third phase, which is also the most selective, consists of the Basic Operator for Special Operations course (Operatore Basico per Operazioni Speciali – OBOS). This course lasts 24 weeks and it aims to train the recruits on land navigation, patrol procedures, shooting, and other basic skills.

    The OBOS consists of:

    • Four weeks – in-depth parachuting course
    • Five weeks – orientation techniques, such as reading and understanding topographic maps and land navigation
    • 12 weeks – Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP)
    • Three weeks – first aid training and radio operator for special forces training
    (Video; Monte Cervino Training Exercises; via Mike on Youtube)

    At the end of these weeks, there is a final exam, which less than 50% of the candidates are able to pass.

    Ranger course

    Is during the fourth phase that the candidates can focus on how to become rangers and specialise in that role. This phase lasts about 46 weeks and is divided into:

    • The Ranger course lasts 15 weeks and is divided into five different modules
    • The winter mountain training, which lasts 10 weeks
    • The summer mountain training, which lasts 10 weeks
    • Self-defence classes for two weeks
    • Advanced Combat Life Saver, which lasts two weeks
    • Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape course, for a period of three weeks
    • Amphibious course, which lasts two weeks
    • Nuclear, biological, and chemical training, for a period of two weeks

    After completing this long and difficult phase, the candidates have to undergo the Close Quarter Battle and the military free-fall parachuting course.

    At the end of these two courses, the candidates officially become rangers.

    Even though the candidates have now become rangers, this does not mean that they stop training and improving their physical and tactical skills.

    They can decide to specialise for example in canyoning, Tactical Combat Casualty Care, Combat Medical Care Course, Forward Air Controller, and sniper shooting.

    Equipment of the Monte Cervino

    The 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino”
    Monte Cervino badge

    The badge of Monte Cervino is divided into two parts: the shield and the exterior ornaments.

    The shield consists of seven different parts. The big one on top represents two snowy mountains topped by a star and, on the right, there is a gold byzantine trident of Ukraine.

    The six small parts represent:

    • A silver raging bull, which represents Turin, and a silver star on the top
    • A gold Scanderbeg helmet (Albania) tied to a black pole and two starts, one silver and one blue
    • A silver band with five rods, three red and two blue, and a silver star. It represents the Guerra di Liberazione (War of Liberation)
    • Two blue bands on a silver background, with a silver star on the first blue band
    • A gold mountain with six peaks, topped by five gold stars.
    • A blue band on a silver background and a red lion with a gold cross of Calvary (Abyssinia)

     On top of the shield, there is a gold crown accompanied by ten ribbons. They represent the various medals of honour gained by the unit in the past. The unit motto is “In adversa ultra adversa”, which literally translated means “against adversities, beyond adversities”.

    Member of the Monte Cervino

    Weaponry

    The Monte Cervino unit has access to a variety of weapons including:

    Assault rifles

    • Beretta ARX 160
    • Colt M4 SopMod (Special Operations Peculiar Modification)
    • Heckler & Koch HK G36
    • Steyr AUG (in mountainous areas)

    Sniper rifles

    • Accuracy International AWP
    • Barrett M82 and M95
    • Heckler & Koch G3SG/1
    • Sako TRG-42

    Others

    • Benelli M4 Super 90
    • Beretta 92FS
    • FN Minimi
    • Glock 17
    • Heckler & Koch MP5 SD and MP7
    • Heckler & Koch HK69
    • MG 42

    Accessories

    • Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight
    • Aimpoint
    • Litton AN/PVS-17 and AN/PVS-7 as night visor
    • AAN/PEQ 2 and DNS M 1700 as a laser pointer

    The vehicles adopted by the unit are:

    • BV 206
    • Iveco ACM 90
    • Iveco VM90T3
    • Land Rover AR90
    • VBL Puma

    The 4° Reggimento Alpini Paracadutisti “Monte Cervino”: Missions

    The first mission on foreign soil took place in Mozambique in 1993. The Monte Cervino took part in the ONUMOZ, the United Nations Operations in Mozambique. The Italian unit had to monitor the ceasefire, the destruction of the weapons, and the demobilisation of the opposing forces.

    In 2002, the Monte Cervino was deployed in Afghanistan, within the International Security Assistance Force missions. The unit had the task of protecting and escorting various Afghan political figures.

    The year after, with the Task Force “Nibbio”, the Monte Cervino took part in various fights against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Khowst, along the Pakistani border.

    In 2003, the Monte Cervino joined the Italian contingent that was deployed in Iraq to take part in Operation Ancient Babylon. During this operation, the unit supported the local police forces and performed patrol duties

    In 2020, the Monte Cervino was deployed in Mali, to take part in Task Force Takuba, alongside the Col Moschin, the GOI, and other Italian Special Forces units.

    International Training

    Along with these missions, the Monte Cervino took also part in international operations focused on sharing training with other foreign countries.

    Among these operations, there is the one with the French Groupement de Commandos Montagne (Mountain Commando Group), the US Army Special Forces, the so-called Green Beret, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and the 75th Ranger Regiment.

    Training session with Rangers

    In 2017, the Monte Cervino was also deployed to Lebanon, to train the Lebanese Armed Forces on sniper shooting in mountainous areas. The training took place in Hamat, and in El Aaqoura and El Laqlouq, areas close to the mountains. Alongside the Monte Cervino, there was also the 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment “Folgore”, focused on the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Target Acquisition course.

    Rachele Momi
    Rachele Momi
    Rachele Momi is a graduate in Intelligence & Security Studies at Brunel University and in Middle East Politics at SOAS. Her research is mainly focused on the Middle East region, tradecraft, and defence issues.

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