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    The 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”

    The 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin” is a unit of the Italian Army Special Forces. It is part of the Army Special Forces Command (COMFOSE – Comando delle Forze Speciali dell’Esercito). Usually called “the Ninth”, Col Moschin was involved in various areas around the world, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Somalia.

    9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”
    Members of Col Moschin during the Italian Republic Day Parade

    History of the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”

    The history of the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin” dates back to the First World War to the 9th Assault Unit (IX Reparto d’Assalto) and the Arditi (literally translated “the daring ones”). Defined as “the most feared corps” by the enemies, the Arditi became known for their battle skills and heroism. One of their most famous battles is the one on Monte Grappa in June 1918. In 24 hours they managed to take back three peaks from the Austrians, Col Fagheron, Col Fenilon, and Col Moschin, from which comes the name of the unit.

    The unit was then dismantled, until the 20th of July 1942, when the 10th Regiment Arditi was established in Santa Severa, Rome. It was deployed in Algeria, Tunisia, and Sicily and on the 8th of September 1943 was dismantled again.

    After being established and dismantled during the years for military necessities, in 1953 the unit was rebuilt in Cesano, Rome, as a company-level unit. In 1954, it became a Saboteur Parachute Section (Reparto Sabotatori Paracadutisti). It was first moved to Livorno (1957), then Pisa, and in 1961 it became a battalion.

    In the same year, the Saboteur Parachute Battalion was moved once again to Livorno, and it was in the employ of the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Folgore”.

    On the 26th of September 1975, it took the designation of 9th Paratroopers Assault Battalion and on the 24th of June 1995 it took its current title of 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”.

    In 2014, Col Moschin left the “Folgore” Brigade, and it became part of the Army Special Forces Command.

    In 2019, to honour the Arditi and their actions, Col Moschin received the grey-green beret.

    9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”
    Col Moschin during the ceremony of the grey-green beret

    Structure of the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”

    The 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”, now led by Col. Luigi Giovanni Isoni, is based in Livorno, in Caserma “Vannucci” and consists of about 300 members.

    The Col Moschin comprises three battalions:

    • The 1st Raiders Battalion consists of four operational detachments. Each detachment consists of a raider specialised in Combat Medic, a breacher, an EOD-IEDD deactivator, a Special Forces Joint Terminal Attack Controller (SF JTAC), an information collector, and one or two snipers.
    • The Operational Support Battalion, which comprehends the Command and Logistic Support Company and the C4 Company
    • The Raiders Training Unit (RAFOS – Reparto Addestramento Forze per Operazioni Speciali)

    The COMFOSE and the COFS

    The Col Moschin is part of the COMFOSE, but operationally the unit is under the Joint Special Forces Operations Command (COFS – Comando interforze per le operazioni delle Forze speciali).

    The COMFOSE is responsible for the development, preparation, and training of the special forces of the Italian army. The units that fall under the COMFOSE are:

    • 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”
    • 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment “Folgore”, part of the Italian Army
    • 4th Alpini Paratroopers Regiment “Monte Cervino”, a Ranger-type special forces unit of the Italian Army
    • 28th Regiment Pavia
    The organisational chart of COMFOSE

    The COFS is the Command in charge of organising and conducting special operations. It is responsible for all the special forces of each Italian armed force:

    • 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”
    • Operational Raiders Group (GOI – Gruppo Operativo Incursori) is a special forces unit of the Italian Navy
    • 17th Raiders Wing, part of the Italian Air Force
    • Special Intervention Group (GIS – Gruppo di Intervento Speciale) is the special forces unit of the Carabinieri.
    • 4th Alpini Paratroopers Regiment “Monte Cervino”
    • 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment “Folgore”
    The organisational chart of COFS

    Responsibilities

    Col Moschin is responsible for:

    • Sabotage
    • Raids
    • Protection of sensitive targets
    • Capture of prominent enemy individuals
    • Rescue of war prisoners
    • Combat search and rescue (CSAR)
    • Non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO)
    • Long-range reconnaissance
    • HUMINT operations
    • Counterterrorism operations within Italy

    Moreover, the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin” is responsible for the tasks related to the Foreign Internal Defence (FID), which aims at training foreign military and police personnel.

    Col Moschin is able to operate in all kinds of environments, and it can be compared to the SAS, the British Special Air Service.

    The 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”: Training

    The training cycle of the Col Moschin recruits lasts around two years. It all begins in Pisa at the BAI (Base Addestramento Incursori) Training Centre.

    The initial requirements for a candidate are:

    • Being younger than 26 years old
    • Rank of officer, non-commissioned officer or volunteer
    • Excellent service record
    • Qualify for a secret level security clearance
    • Previously completed a parachute training

    The initial phase of the training also comprehends the 185th Paratroopers Reconnaissance Target Acquisition Regiment “Folgore” and the 4th Alpini Paratroopers Regiment “Monte Cervino”.

    The First Phase

    The first phase is the selection phase and it lasts seven weeks.

    It consists of various physical tests such as:

    • 2000m run within 8’20’’
    • Minimum 10 pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 15 parallel dips, 40 sit-ups in one minute each
    • Rope climbing: 4m in 1’45’’
    • High jump: minimum 120cm
    • Loaded march: 7km in less than 45 minutes
    • 10km march with a 10kg backpack in less than one hour and 12 minutes
    • Breath-holding test: 15m with the uniform
    • Floating test: five minutes with the uniform
    • Swimming test: 50m within 2’15’’ wearing the uniform

    The candidates that pass this first selection, can access the selection traineeship, which includes various physical tests such as loaded marches and it tests the speed, coordination, and courage of each candidate.

    After the selection traineeship, there is a 19-weeks training focused on two different courses: static line parachuting and Basic Operator for Special Operations (Operatore Basico per Operazioni Speciali – OBOS). The first one, which lasts four weeks, takes place at the Training Centre for Parachuters of the “Folgore” and it allows to gain the patent as a military paratrooper.

    The OBOS lasts 15 weeks and takes place in Livorno and Montorio Veronese. This course aims to train the recruits on basic skills related to special operations, such as orientation techniques, how to read and understand topographic maps, first aid training, and military tactics, techniques, and procedures.

    Specialisation Phase

    Whoever succeeds, begins a 52-weeks training which is specifically tailored for Col Moschin.

    This intense training comprises two phases. The first one is the Combat Course for Special Forces (Corso Combattimento per Forze Speciali – CCFS). During this phase the training focuses on:

    • Surviving, escape, evasion, and resistance to interrogation techniques
    • How to handle explosives
    • Combat Medic
    • Radio operator for special forces training, centred on how to use and fix advanced radio equipment
    • Procedures and special techniques adopted by Col Moschin
    • How to read and understand GEOINT
    • How to handle weapons

    The second phase is the Advanced Combat Course for Special Forces (Corso Combattimento Avanzato per Forze Speciali – CCAFS). In this phase the knowledge previously acquired is analysed in depth.

    9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”
    Col Moschin operators during a training

    The recruits that successfully complete the first specialisation phase, start the qualification course for raider paratroopers. This course will allow the recruit to learn how to adapt and fight in different scenarios. Among these techniques, the recruit must train on:

    • Alpine and skiing courses
    • Recognising different kinds of weapons and military equipment
    • Freefall parachuting
    • English language
    • Diving course
    • Sniper skills
    • Forward Air Controller course
    • Combat Medic course

    Equipment

    9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”
    Col Moschin badge

    Col Moschin’s badge comprises four squares. The first square on the top left is red and contains a silver Roman sword. The second one represents the Monte Pertica and the third one is a gold silphium of Cirenacia. The fourth, in the lower right corner there is a band with five rods, three red and two blue.

    On top of the shield, there is a gold crown accompanied by ribbons which represent the various medals of honour gained by the unit.

    The Col Moschin motto is “Della folgore l’impeto” which means “From the Folgore, the momentum”

    The Col Moschin unit is equipped with a variety of weapons including:

    Assault rifles

    • Colt M4
    • Beretta ARX-160
    • Heckler & Koch G36 and HK416

    Sniper rifles

    • Sako TRG-42
    • Heckler & Koch G3/SG1
    • Mauser SP66
    • Mauser SP86, a 7,62×51 mm NATO calibre
    • Barrett M82A1, a 21,7mm calibre

    Others:

    •  Glock 17
    • Heckler & Koch HK MP5, MP5K, and MP5SD
    • Browning M2 and M60A4
    • Beretta MG 42/59
    Col Moschin operator

    The vehicles adopted by the unit are:

    • Land Rover Defender 90 WMIK (Weapon Mounted Installation Kit), which can be equipped with Browning M2 and Sako MK19
    • VTML Lince (Light Tactical Multirole Vehicle)
    • Iveco VM90P

    Missions of the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”

    Lebanon

    Between 1982 and 1984, Col Moschin took part in the Italcon Missions in Lebanon. The Multinational Force in Lebanon led this peacekeeping mission and it comprised Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

    On the night of the 15th of March 1983, a unit of the 1st San Marco Regiment was ambushed in Sabra, Lebanon. Many soldiers died in that accident and consequently the then commander of Italcon and former commander of Col Moschin, Franco Angioni, decided to leave the base and deploy the Col Moschin to look for the perpetrators. The fight did not last long since the enemies were better equipped, and the mission was suspended.

    The day after the Col Moschin received by radio a message from the commander of the Israeli army saying, “Tell your commander that you are admired, because in the Middle East nobody fights during the night.”

    Achille Lauro

    On the 7th of October 1985, various members of the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF) hijacked the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship, between Alessandria and Port Said, in Egypt. While planning a diplomatic solution, the Italian government decided to deploy the Col Moschin and a unit of the San Marco Regiment.

    The Col Moschin, based in Akrotiri, Cyprus, in a British military based, started training and simulating various operations in order to retrieve the hostages and retake control of the ship.

    While the helicopter was landing on the cruiser and the mission was ongoing, the Italian government stopped the incursion since the hijackers decided to surrender.

    Somalia

    On the 11th of December 1992, Col Moschin joined Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. The first mission of Col Moschin was to regain control of the Italian Embassy in Mogadishu. Due to the civil war in 1991, the Italian personnel abandoned the embassy.  Moreover, Col Moschin was responsible for patrolling the area, escorting humanitarian vehicles, enforcing the ceasefire, and establishing contacts with the local population, which was then divided in who was in favour or against the Western intervention.

    Col Moschin in Somalia

    On the 5th of June 1993, Somali militants ambushed a Pakistani unit of the UN and 24 soldiers died. Col Moschin was then deployed in order to save the Pakistani unit. The Italian unit, formed only by 20 members, saved more than 80 soldiers combatting hand-to-hand. 

    Something very similar happened the month after. On the 2nd of July, Somali militants ambushed an Italian unit during the Battle of Checkpoint Pasta. An Italian intervention group was set up and the Col Moschin took part. By the end of the day, the Italian unit saved and rescued the Italian operators.

    Iraq

    In 2003, an Italian contingent joined Operation Ancient Babylon in Iraq. The Col Moschin were part of this multinational force with the Gruppo di Intervento Speciale (GIS) and the COMSUBIN (Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori “Teseo Tesei”). Their mission was to arrest IS suspects and train the local army and police.

    On the 5th of April 2004, terrorist militias abducted Gary Teeley, a British citizen and laundry supply consultant in the Middle East.

    Operation Easter Egg started on the 11th of April 2004 and involved the Col Moschin and the Gruppo Operativo Incursori (GOI).

    After various attempts to enter the terrorists’ headquarters in Nasiriya, the Italian operators managed to put pressure on the enemy and rescue the hostage.

    In 2015, about 30 members of the Col Moschin joined a unit of the American Special Forces in a new military base in Taqaddum, between Falluja and Ramadi.

    Afghanistan

    Between 2006 and 2016, Col Moschin was also deployed to Afghanistan. It was part of Task Force 45, a military unit formed by Italian Special Forces and linked to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

    The main tasks were to rescue hostages, collect intelligence, special reconnaissance, prevention, and protection of important diplomats.

    9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment “Col Moschin”
    Col Moschin in Afghanistan

    Col Moschin took part in many international operations and among them, there was also the one in Mali. It joined Task Force Takuba in 2020 with other Italian Special Forces such as the 17th Raiders Wing and the Gruppo Operativo Incursori (GOI).

    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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