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Dec 10 2002


A great achievement but we need to keep the momentum - LT Gen. Fabrizio CASTAGNETTI - NRDC-IT Commander.

SOLBIATE OLONA (VA) 10 DECEMBER 2002. Last December our Corps achieved the Full Operational Capability after an intense training year. The final report issued from SACEUR, praising us for the excellent full deployment (Exercise Eagle Flight 02) and for the fact that many of the Military Criteria were not only met but also exceeded in the Final Test (Exercise Light Ship 02), was a clear recognition of the incredible effort put in place in a very short time. This effort was a combined one, where the principal actors were the Italian Army Staff, the Italian Operational Land Forces HQ (COMFOTER), our Staff and the Signal Brigade. While being now proud of the fantastic results we achieved, let us go back with the memory to the scale of the mission we had to perform, what we have to do to succeed and, principally, what we have to do next to keep the momentum. The mission we received was to build a Multinational Headquarters Staff, at Corps or Land Component Command (LCC) level, at high readiness and fully deployable, able to command and control up to a minimum of 4 Divisions plus the necessary Combat Support and Combat Service Support troops, in war fighting or Crisis Response Operations (CROs). A similar project had been successfully fulfilled once in the past, when the already existing British Army of the Rhein was transformed in the Allied Command EUROPE Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). Such a challenge without mastering the English language, having almost no fundamentals (trained Staff, barrack, facilities…), with no existing affiliation of units, seemed at the beginning a very difficult one if not crazy at all. However, there was no choice: surrender or fight with the prospective to become more professional in NATO terms, work in a much more satisfactory environment, and provide our families a better quality of life. Since surrender was not an alternative for good soldiers, we had to fight and we did.

From the beginning it was also clear that to reach the FOC and to be able to maintain a very high level of professionalism and readiness we had to achieve and then sustain a set of Decisive Points. In summary the decisive Points were a permanent availability of: - a Support Regiment capable of fully sustaining the Command Posts in the field (life, security/defense, engineer works); - a Signal Regiment capable of putting in place all the necessary CIS equipment for the Command and Control functions; - a Base Support Command (or Garrison HQ) capable of establishing and maintaining satisfactory work conditions and a good quality of life. - at least 90% of the Peace Establishment , physically fit and regularly trained; - coordinating authority over all the Units affiliated to the NRDC-IT, and a robust training program; - a set of superbly trained and competent Officers and NCOs, able to follow and, possibly, influence all major NATO issues; - intelligence assets necessary first to know and, then, to conduct our operations in the most effective way. Unfortunately, these decisive points were and are not timely sequential, not achievable in a clear and rational proceeding. What should have been the first objective to be met (Base Support Command) would be clearly the last. In fact, while some decisive points have already been achieved and completed, the FOC being a clear testimony of that, other will be achieved shortly, other in 3-4 years period. Let us see these points in due order. 

The Support Regiment and the Signal Regiment have proved to be two very robust and capable Units and are in the process of achieving a permanent standard of excellence by receiving the equipment they still lack (air conditioning for life in the tents and remaining CIS assets). To be mentioned also the constitution of a second Infantry Company within the 3rd Bersaglieri Regiment in Milan that most likely will be subordinated to the NRDC-IT and the availability of a Barrack in Legnano. How to best use this infrastructure is still to be fully analysed. We have started to loose some of the very well trained and competent Officers and NCOs (COS, Chief Plans, etc…) but with the arrival of all the personnel of the contributing countries, we do not foresee any problem to maintain the 90% of the Peace Establishment. While sorry to see many friends leave, we must consider that a rotation of about 30% of the full Staff every year is inevitable and the training and integration of new personnel will be a permanent effort. Remember also to think positive. Sure, loosing our Chief of Staff and Chief G3 Plans was temporarily decreasing our operational effectiveness but they will do an excellent job in their new position, they will create culture, they will remain our agents in other Multinational organization abroad or at the Army Staff, they will be substituted by other brilliant Officers. The affiliation of Units (two moreover Divisions, some minor CS and CSS Units) and of the essential and other augmentees issues is still an open problem and common to the other NRDCs except the ARRC. The Army Staff and ourselves are working on this issue and as a first result we very much hope to establish a formal or informal training affiliation with the US SETAF based in Vicenza. The augmentees issue will be properly discussed in the first plenary meeting, which the IT-MOD will organize soon. 

The problem that is causing the biggest concern to me, and it was from the beginning, is the construction of all the facilities in order to have a permanent Base able to provide, good working condition and good quality of life. Remember that this project goes beyond what was requested by NATO. The infrastructures body is for me a parallel Center of Gravity. We could have reached our FOC working and sleeping in tents and go on with poor, if not existing, sports and welfare facilities, but our results would remain fragile and transient. A real barrack (sports facilities, Officers', NCOs' and Soldiers' Clubs all working and efficient, a village with good housing conditions, schools, swimming pool, cinema, etc…) is not only absolutely necessary to have a permanent operational and effective multinational HQ, it is also essential, a conditio sine qua non for the Italian professional Army. The infrastructure works are proceeding, slowly but steadily, and, must important of all, the Master Plan detailing all the constructions we need has been completely approved. Most of you and I will not be able to see the village in place but our successors surely will. Attached to the infrastructures is the necessity of having a Garrison HQ that can master the English language, can maintain the Base when completed, can provide all the NATO benefits to the Italian and International personnel. In this regard, much is still to be done. For all the things we have already achieved we must keep the momentum. We have now a very well trained staff that must be kept at the same competent level with an intelligent personnel rotation and with a robust training program. We must keep the motivation of the personnel at the same excellent present level with specific reference to the IT Staff Members.

For this, we must act in 3 directions. First, demonstrate that the infrastructure’s master plan in not a dream but is proceeding with the execution although not as fast as we would like. Second, we must commend the personnel that have worked very well so far, not penalize them (on the progression of their career, with the next jobs, etc…). Third, we must be able to provide the limited NATO benefits to all personnel involved, without having to lean on other NATO HQs in Italy. What Italy is doing with this project, is not just one of the many reorganizations of the Army that we have continually experienced since 1975. This is a revolution, in culture, in the way we work in operations (Mission Command) and do our business in the Permanent HQ (decentralization rather than centralization), in the way we plan and build barracks. We have the moral strength, the will and the professional competence to succeed and to give our successors a much better organization to work in. The English language is and will remain (for the nonnative English speaking personnel) a handicap in understanding, writing and speaking. This handicap must be reduced to a minimum by a continuous effort, until speaking Italian or English will make no difference. We must be and remain a team. From the youngest draftee to the Commander, all must know the end state, the objectives we have to achieve, the functions we have to perform, the areas of responsibility. Everyone must be a master in its own field and work for the good of the others and of the HQ. Everybody to master his area of responsibility means that Job descriptions must be clearly set and perfectly implemented, and if these have to be amended, changed or completed this must be done constantly, in a trend of training, lesson learned and adaptation of the structure. To become a team it is also very important to have social functions and sports events. 

These will increase in number and quality parallel to the realization of the necessary facilities. To this end, I recommend all our too many weekend commuters to reconsider their decisions. We have close to the Ugo Mara Barrack 10 apartments free and these are now open to bidding by personnel of contributing Countries. Finally, as already said before, our Staff does not have to suffer or put up with the next NATO transformation. We must be proactive and probably influence what is going to happen. In this regard, I see the NATO Response Force (NRF) as an incredible opportunity for NATO as a whole, for the IT Army, for the NRDC-IT. Now we have the head able to plan, deploy and execute. Our NRF-Land will represent the legs and the arms. The creation of a Task Force at Brigade level plus a Bde HQ able, together with the Units, to deploy within 5- 30 days will also generate the necessity of creative training that will complement the exercises already planned beyond 2003 (Allied Action 04, possibly FOC of the Hungarian Armed forces-2005 and others). The NRDC-IT will receive other Italian and International Units affiliated as a proof that the FOC we achieved with so great a success was not our End State but just a Decisive Point of a project of a much bigger scale.

Story by NRDC Public Affairs Office


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